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NHL Players Association approves further negotiations on 24-team playoff

The NHL moved a step closer to restarting with player approval on Friday. We break down the news regarding the 24-team playoff format.

A general view of the arena prior to Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on June 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL Players Association is officially on board with the league restarting the season with a 24-team playoff. The executive board announced they have authorized further negotiations specific to that return format.

“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.​”

This announcement suggests they have a tentative agreement on the broader structure. The owners have to negotiate the process for return with the players’ union. It involves a host of details, and so they will come to agreements on a variety of aspects, pending an overall agreement on the entirety of the package of details.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski is reporting the NHL will need to formally sign off as well, and then a joint announcement on the plan could come in the next few days. That would also result in adjusting plans for the NHL’s draft lottery and the draft itself following the playoffs.

The two sides still need to sort out health and safety issues, particularly given the discussion of setting up the tournament in two-to-four cities around the country.

The tournament structure, according to Wyshynski, would involve the top four seeds in each conference getting byes through a first round that features best-of-five series for seeds 5 through 12. Those play-in series would eventually set up the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff, with each subsequent series resolved through best-of-seven.

The top four seeds in the Eastern Conference would include the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers. The top four seeds in the Western Conference would include the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Edmonton Oilers.