Reports: NHL, players reach tentative agreement for 2021 season

The NHL appears to be inching ever so closely to a season in 2021.
According to multiple reports, the NHL and the NHL Players Association have reached a tentative agreement on a 56-game schedule, pending approval from both sides as well as Canadian health officials.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Associated Press that both sides have an agreement, pending approval.
If the plan goes through, the season is scheduled to start on Jan. 13, with training camps for last season’s non-playoff teams to begin on Dec. 30 and then the rest of the teams opening camp on Jan. 3. Those dates are not finalized.
The NHLPA’s board was scheduled to meet Friday night to discuss while TSN reported the NHL Board of Governors would meet on Sunday and Monday. Both sides need to ratify it.
Still left unresolved is whether Canadian health officials in each of the five provinces that have teams will allow games to be played there. With the COVID-19 border restrictions, the league was aiming to create a Canadian division with those seven teams and realign the U.S.-based clubs in three separate, temporary divisions.
If multiple Canadian provinces are unwilling to host games, then a contingency plan could be for the Canadian teams to find temporary homes in the U.S. The Toronto Raptors have relocated to Tampa, Fla., for at least the first part of the NBA season.
Various other details were filtering out on Friday night. Sportsnet in Canada also reported that the agreement calls for a four-to-six player taxi squad, there will be no proration of salaries and, if players choose to opt out for the season, their contracts would slide with the team for another year. The Canadian network also reported that there will be no exhibition games. The top-four teams from each of the four divisions would make the playoffs, with each division placing a team in the semifinals.
As of Friday night, it is still not clear if teams would be playing in their home rinks, in a modified bubble or a combination of both. While Canada is having its issues, California is experiencing a surge and, as of right now, the San Jose Sharks would not be allowed to play in their home rink. The San Francisco 49ers were forced to play in Arizona the past two weeks.
If that Jan. 13 date holds, there are some teams with a lot of work to get done. According to capfriendly.com, there are 10 teams over the salary cap. We could see a flurry of trades between now and mid-January as teams try to become compliant.
There are also a lot of unrestricted free agents who have no homes. One of them is the Bruins’ longtime captain, Zdeno Chara. According to capfriendly, the B’s have approximately $3 million left under the salary cap. With perhaps a little finagling, that should be enough to fit Chara.
His agent Matt Keator has said repeatedly that the 43-year-old Chara was waiting to see what form the season would take before he committed to a path. By the end of the weekend or early next week, Chara — and the rest of us — should have a clearer picture.
While the virus is in the midst of a second wave, there is also hope on the horizon. Rollout of the Pfizer vaccine occurred earlier this week and the FDA approved Moderna’s vaccine for emergency use on Friday night. With the NHL being a gate-driven sport, owners no doubt will be looking to get fans in their buildings as soon as their municipalities deem it to be safe as they try to recoup lost revenue. It was reported by the Sports Business Journal on Thursday that the league was moving toward putting ads on the players’ helmets for the upcoming season.

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