Report: NHL, NHLPA 'Making Progress' on 24-Team Stanley Cup Playoffs for Return

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2020

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference before an NHL hockey game between the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Uniondale, NY. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

The NHL and NHLPA are reportedly "making progress" on a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff if the league returns to the ice amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported talks gained traction over the weekend, though no formal announcement is imminent. The proposed reconfiguration of the playoffs would end the 2019-20 regular season and have the top 24 teams make the postseason.

Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reported a proposed structure would break the 24 teams into four divisional groups for a round-robin style first round:

Atlantic Division: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.

Metropolitan Division: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Central Division: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.

Pacific Division: Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild.

Under that proposal, teams would play five games in nine days against their divisional opponents. The NHL would then use a percentage of the points accumulated in the round-robin portion and the regular season to seed the playoffs, with the top two teams receiving a bye. The Nos. 3-6 seeds in each division would then play best-of-three series to determine which teams would advance to the standard 16-team format, which would be played as normal.

While it's unclear whether that exact formula will be used, some of the NHL's plans have crystallized. The league plans to use four arenas in four cities for the playoffs, and teams will not be allowed to play in their home arenas. A city will also be chosen to hold the conference finals and Stanley Cup final.

No games are likely to take place until at least July. The NHL is planning a three-week training camp, and with no formal agreement in place, it's likely negotiations will extend into June. However, there appears to be momentum in favor of finishing the 2019-20 season.