The NHL is one step closer to returning after the league agreed to dates for Phases 3 and 4 of the Return to Play Plan.
July 13 is the scheduled date for the opening of full training camps for the 24 playoff teams while Aug. 1st is the projected start date for resumption of play, the league announced Monday. In addition, teams will travel to two unannounced hub cities on July 26th, with those cities to be determined in the coming weeks.
The 24 teams will be housed in Phase 4 Secure Zones, which will include hotels, restaurants, practice facilities, and the arena where exhibition, qualifier, and playoff games will be held. Each person inside the secure zone, including players, coaches, team and League personnel, arena and practice facility staff, and vendors and service providers will be tested daily for COVID-19 and have symptom screening and temperature checks.
Roster sizes will jump from a maximum of 30 to 31 once Phase 4 begins as well as a maximum of 52 individuals per team (which include ownership, players, coaches, executives, and staff) being permitted inside the secure zone. All members of each team will undergo daily testing, symptom checks, and temperature screenings.
Teams have begun individual practice at facilities, but sessions have been limited to a maximum of 12 players per group. The Philadelphia Flyers (+1000 to win the Stanley Cup, odds from DraftKings) have continued practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, working in small groups for each session.
Alain Vigneault’s team will first take part in a round-robin tournament with the additional top three teams from the Eastern Conference (Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals). This tournament will determine playoff seeding, while the remaining 16 teams begin eight best-of-5 series for advancement in the playoffs.
The four best-of-5 series in the East are as followed:
- Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6) vs. the Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9)
- Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5) vs. the New York Rangers (37-28-5)
- New York Islanders (35-23-10) vs. the Florida Panthers (35-26-8)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9) vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15)
In the Western Conference Qualifiers, the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, along with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Vegas Golden Knights will take part in a four team round-robin tournament to determine seeding.
The four best-of-5 series in the West are as followed:
- Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9) vs. the Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8)
- Nashville Predators (35-26-8) vs. the Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8)
- Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6) vs. the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7)
- Calgary Flames (36-27-7) vs. the Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6)