On Tuesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced details for the league's return-to-play plan after the regular season was brought to a halt on March 12 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
If the NHL is able to return to the ice this summer, it likely won't happen until the end of July or early August with the top 12 teams in each conference playing in two separate hub cities. The top four teams in each conference will play a three-game round robin to determine their seeding for the first round of the playoffs while the remaining eight teams will battle in best-of-five play-in series in order to qualify for the 16-team postseason.
Bettman also revealed details on the NHL Draft Lottery, slated for June 26.
Follow this blog throughout the day to keep track with how teams are reacting to the format.
Canucks considering United States for training camp
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning think the 24-team return-to-play format is "fair" and is excited for a potential play-in series against the Minnesota Wild.
"It's a fair format for the teams that were fighting for playoff spots. We'll be facing Minnesota and it should be a fast, skilled, well-played series," he said
Benning also noted that the Canucks are looking into holding their training camp in the United States due to Canada's strict 14-day quarantine rule.
"It's something we're thinking about, but also we want to give it a few more days to see if something is going to change. In a perfect scenario we'd like to use our facilities and we're probably going to have 30, 32 guys here and we have great facilities for our players," explained Benning. "We would like to do that first and foremost, but we've talked about moving it off site too."
Benning says there's still time to make a decision on whether to move training camp off site.
'We're going to have time here to figure all that out," Benning said. "We're still in the early stages of talking about moving it off site. I want to see what happens here through the weekend and I know the NHL is taking to the PA everyday. Things change by the hour, by the day. We're nowhere near making that decision to take it off site, but we're going to continue to talk about it, think about it and we'll decide at the end what's best for our team to get them ready to play in this play down with Minnesota and getting ready for the playoffs."
Benning said he's been in talks with other Canadian clubs about the 14-day quarantine and that it's out of their control.
"It's a government rule that it's in place that we're going to listen to," he said.
Bergevin: In a short series anything is possible
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin thinks they can give Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins a good series.
The Habs, ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference when the league shut down on March 12, would battle the Penguins in a five-game play-in series if the NHL happens to return this summer.
"I think our chance are as good as any of the eight teams," Bergevin said on a conference call Wednesday. "In a short series, anything is possible without putting too much pressure on Carey [Price]."
Montreal has lost two of three games to Pittsburgh this season.
Also, if doctors say it is unsafe for forward Max Domi, who is diabetic, to play during the COVID-19 pandemic, then he won't play.
Additionally, forward Jonathan Drouin, who suffered an ankle injury in late February, has been cleared to play while defenceman Victor Mete's status is still up in the air until a team doctor examines him. Mete, who suffered a broken ankle on Feb. 18, has been rehabbing at his home in Ontario.
Oilers general manager speaks
Shanahan: A return needs to be done in a respectful, conscientious way
As part of the NHL's return-to-play format, the league plans on ramping up COVID-19 testing for players and staff. The NHL wants players tested at least two times per week when they return to team facilities and everyday while competing in games.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says players will be tested "every evening" with test results coming in “before they leave their hotel room in the morning.”
The province of Ontario has been criticized for its lack of testing during the pandemic. Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan says if Toronto is used as a hub city, he doesn't want testing to be taken away from people who really need it.
"None of us ever want to be perceived or would consider a situation where we are taking away testing from people that need it...[a return] needs to be done in a respectful, conscientious way," he said during a conference call on Wednesday.
"We obviously submitted ourselves, we think we put together a pretty comprehensive program," said Shanahan on Toronto becoming a hub city. "There's a lot of things that need to evolve and more information that has to become clear to make sure the environment is safe."
Shanahan says he has not been in contact with Mayor John Tory or Premier Doug Ford when it comes to Toronto becoming a hub city.
Captain John Tavares says that players want to feel they're in a safe environment.
"If this is to happen, I think we believe and we know that our communities and our world is going to be in a lot better place to be able to play hockey and be able to play competitively," said Tavares.
General manager Kyle Dubas was also part of Wednesday's conference call and says most of the Leafs players are making their way back to the city and will start training in small groups as soon as Phase 2 gets initiated.
He also mentioned Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson, selected by the Leafs in the second round of last year's draft, will be on the Leafs' roster going forward if play resumes. Robertson scored 55 goals and added 31 assists over 46 games in the OHL this season. He is currently in a 14-day quarantine after returning to the province.
Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp, who has stayed in his home state of Michigan during the pandemic, says Canada's 14-day quarantine period will deter him from coming back to Winnipeg for the NHL's voluntary Phase 2.
The 25-year-old says he may elect to travel to Florida in the next couple weeks in order to skate.
Furthermore, Copp said he doesn't have a preference for a hub city, but does worry about ice conditions given that rinks would likely be used for multiple games per day.
Two thumbs up
The Calgary Flames are happy with what they see when it comes to the NHL's 24-team return-to-play format.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Tuesday was a "good day."
"It's really exciting," Treliving told the Flames website. "Everybody's gone through a tough time - some, more than others, obviously. But the way I look at it is the fact that we're even talking about hockey again is a sign that things are starting to move in the right direction and are trending positively from a medical standpoint."
Calgary, ranked eighth in the Western Conference when the league was shut down, will have to battle the No. 9 Winnipeg Jets in order to reach the playoffs.
Captain Mark Giordano says this format maintains the credibility of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"The biggest issue for us, as players, was to maintain the credibility of the playoffs. We wanted something similar to what we've all experienced in the past, which was to win four best-of-seven series' to win the Stanley Cup. This format does that and legitimizes the whole thing, as far as I'm concerned," Giordano explained.
"You have to applaud what the league and all the player representatives were able to come up. I mean, you couldn't really penalize teams who were right on the bubble of making the playoffs and would either be out based straight on points percentage, our because they didn't play enough games to get there. This was a great compromise. I know some teams weren't happy, but for the most part, I think the most were pleased with it," said Giordano.
Despite being satisfied with the format, forward Milan Lucic still thinks there's a long way to go before they get the go ahead to play actual games.
"When the lockout's over, boom, you're right back to playing," Lucic said. "But in this case, there's still a lot of things that need to be addressed, so that's why I'm cautiously optimistic. There's still - in my mind - a long way to go until we actually do get back on the ice.
"You make plans, but things can change within a day - or even within the hour - during a pandemic."
Five or seven?
According to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun, the NHLPA has reached out to player reps over the last few days to discuss whether to go with five-game or seven-game series over the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The hope is that a decision is made by the end of the week.
Willing to host in Ontario?
Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, says Ontario is interested in hosting NHL games in Toronto, but won't be publicly lobbying for games in the province as they are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It doesn't strike the right tone," MacLeod told Ian Mendes of TSN Radio 1200 Ottawa.
Mackinnon talks NHL format in latest Dreger Cafe
Pittsburgh ready to be hub city
Pittsburgh is one of the 10 hub cities Bettman said are still in the running to host games if the NHL is able to come back in a few months. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford says he's open to wherever they play, but thinks Pittsburgh would work as a hub city.
"I'm open to wherever we play. From the Penguins point of view, we meet the guidelines [of a host city]," he said on Wednesday. "We have a state of the art facility at the UPMC Lemieux Center. We meet the criteria, but understand that other teams do too. We just have to prepare to play.”
The fifth-ranked Penguins would battle the No. 12 Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-five play-in series if and when the NHL returns.
Games before the games?
Even though it wasn't part of Bettman's Tuesday announcement, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen expects there will be exhibition games before the playoffs start.
Columbus is slated to battle Toronto in a best-of-five play-in series.