NHL Reportedly Likely to Use 2 'Hub' Cities for 24-Team Playoff in Restart Plan

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 21, 2020

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  A Columbus Blue Jackets fan reads a sign on the door stating that all events have been postponed until further notice the Nationwide Arena on March 12, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio. The game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins was canceled after the NHL's decision to suspend the remaining games in the season due to the continuing outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The NHL is reportedly planning to use two cities as hubs for a potential 24-team tournament this summer in lieu of completing the full 82-game regular season.

According to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski, internal league discussions had previously centered on using four cities to help play resume. In an email response to ESPN, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he's not aware of any agreement.

"Don't want to jump the gun on anything," Daly said.

The NHL is scheduled to host a call with the NHL Players' Association executive board Thursday, and return-to-play proposals will be discussed, per Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

While nothing is close to being finalized between the players and the league, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman noted the plan provides a framework for the two sides to work with.

Instead of finishing out the regular season, the league would move to a 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs with a drastically different format than a normal postseason.

Based on conference standings when play was halted, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars would all receive first-round byes—though they would play each other in a three-game tournament so they aren't sitting idly by.

Meanwhile, the remaining teams would play against each other in a best-of-five series for the official first round of the playoffs. All following series would move back to the normal best-of-seven format.

Here's how the remaining matchups would look:

Western Conference

No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks

No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes

No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota Wild

No. 8 Calgary Flames vs. No. 9 Winnipeg Jets

Eastern Conference

No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens

No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers

No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers

No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets 

What this plan does not cover is where games would take place, how many teams would be in each location, what COVID-19 testing procedures would be put in place and how to navigate heavy restrictions placed on entry through Canada's borders with the United States.

Those problems persist, and Johnston noted both the NHL and NHLPA are continuing to work to solve them together, yet the proposal is more to give both sides an idea of what they are working toward.