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NHL players approve 24-team conference-based playoff format; further negotiation to come

NHL players approve 24-team conference-based playoff format; further negotiation to come

Several details still need to be negotiated before play can resume

The NHL Players' Association's executive board has approved the NHL's 24-team, conference-based playoff format Friday night, pending further negotiation on issues related to resuming competition, according to the Washington Post. There's no word on when teams would officially return to the ice.

"The executive board of the NHLPA has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup," the NHLPA said in a statement Friday night. "Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play."

There's also no word on the logistics as far as hub cities are concerned. In addition, even with the vote passing, the league and players union still need to negotiate other items such as cities hosting games, testing and safety protocols.

In this particular format, the top four seeds (determined by points percentage) in the East would be the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. The top four teams in the West would be the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars.

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, those eight teams would receive byes through a play-in tournament, but would take part in a three-game tournament in order to stay fresh.

The remainder of the postseason would be "bracketed":

  • No. 5 seed faces No. 12 (winner plays No. 4 seed)
  • No. 6 vs. No. 11 (winner plays No. 3 seed)
  • No. 7 vs. 10 (winner faces No. 2 seed)
  • No. 8 vs. No. 9 (winner plays No. 1 seed)

If the NHL decides to move forward with this format, here's what the opening rounds in each conference would look like:

East

  • Penguins vs. Canadiens
  • Hurricanes vs. Rangers
  • Islanders vs. Panthers
  • Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

West

  • Oilers vs. Blackhawks
  • Predators vs. Coyotes
  • Canucks vs. Wild
  • Flames vs. Jets

The play-in series would be a best-of-five while the remainder of the postseason series would all be in best-of-seven formats.

"I feel like if you're doing the 24-team thing, it basically gives a team a chance that had no chance of making it, which if you play 82 there's maybe 6, 8 percent chance that the team in 12th place (in the conference) makes it," Carolina Hurricanes player representative Jordan Martinook said on Wednesday. "Nobody's ever seen this before, but at the end of the day, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are 16 teams, seven games a series."

The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported recently that the NHL and NHLPA were making progress on the 24-team postseason format. Clearly, both sides have thought further about the idea, which led to this conference-based setup that has now been approved.

Currently, there are 189 regular season games remaining on the NHL schedule after the season was paused on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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