The Islanders and Florida Panthers will begin their best-of-five qualifying round series on August 1st, as the NHL and NHL Players Association announce they have ratified a four-year extension of their collective bargaining agreement.
The series will take place in Toronto, which is the hub city for all Eastern Conference series in the NHL’s Return to Play plan. Edmonton is the hub for the Western Conference.
If you’ve been craving hockey during the COVID-19 pandemic pause, you’re about to have your fill. Five games a day will be spread out between the two venues for the first week-plus. See below for all the games, including back-to-backs and if necessaries.
The #StanleyCup Qualifiers are going to be an exciting 10-day stretch of hockey. https://t.co/IErZJ2hifT pic.twitter.com/Ya2wwxuhSs— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 10, 2020
Broadcast information will be released in the coming days, according to the release on the Islanders’ site.
Training camp (the second for this season) begins this Monday, July 13th at each team’s home practice rink. On the 26th, teams will travel to their respective hub cities. Everyone gets one warm up game before the qualifying rounds start. Winners move on to a best-of-seven playoff series against one of their conference’s top four teams, which will play in a round robin tournament for seeding at the same time as the qualifiers.
But the agreement was about more than just the Return to Play. The CBA extension guarantees labor peace for the next four years, as well as making meaningful changes to how NHL teams can operate. For example:
— The NHL salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season with provisions for it to increase incrementally in the following seasons if hockey-related revenue reaches certain thresholds.
— Escrow (the percentage withheld from player salaries and placed in an account used to calculate a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue) will be capped at 20 percent for the 2020-21 season, 14-18 percent in 2021-22, 10 percent in 2022-23, and 6 percent in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.
— NHL players will return to Olympic competition at the 2022 Beijing Games and the 2026 Milano Cortina Games, pending agreements being reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.
— Players will defer 10 percent of their salaries for the 2020-21 season that will be paid out in equal installments over three seasons beginning in 2022-23.
— The NHL minimum salary will increase from $700,000 to $750,000 in 2021-22 and 2022-23, and $775,000 in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.
We’ll learn more of the schedule as games get played, but a couple of dates to pay attention to are October 4th, which is the last possible day for the Stanley Cup Final, and October 9th, because of free agency.
Free agency for the 2020-21 NHL season will either be Oct. 9 or seven days following the Stanley Cup Final (as late as Oct. 11).— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 10, 2020
That means we could have free agency open the same day as the first round of the entry draft is held.
Also from Sportsnet’s Johnston comes a bit of information for Islanders fans:
There’ll be a short window to sign Kaprizov (MIN), Sorokin (NYI), Romanov (MTL) et al to 2019-20 contracts. It opens at 12 p.m. ET on Monday and runs through 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Those players still aren’t eligible to play in the restart, but can burn a year off their ELC’s.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 10, 2020
So we may be nearing the return of NHL hockey and the end of the Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin Saga. He can finally sign now, but he can’t play for the Islanders in meaningful games until at least December. We’ll know, in very short order, what the resolution of this long and winding road is.