After the shortest off-season in NHL history, the NHL and the NHLPA have an agreement in place to begin the 2020-21 season. The season will begin January thirteenth and finish on May eighth.
Training camp will begin on January third for the Lightning. For those teams that didn’t make the playoffs, training camp will start on December thirty-first.
There will be a 56 game schedule, and there will be a realigning of the divisions to reduce travel. Teams will only play teams in their division this season.
There will be four playoff teams from each division. Teams will not play outside of their division until the semi-finals when the top four teams left, will re-seeded for the final four.
“The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds will be intradivisional, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. Their points will seed the four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3).” According to NHL.com
The latest that the Stanley Cup finals will be played will be July fifteenth.
Here are the new division alignments for the upcoming season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was excited to get the agreement nailed down, “The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season, especially since the Return to Play in 2019-20 was so successful in crowning a Stanley Cup champion. While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play. And, as was the case last spring and summer, I thank the NHLPA, particularly Executive Director Don Fehr, for working cooperatively with us to get our League back on the ice.”
The Lightning will invite 36 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies to training camp. While the roster size will not increase from 23, there will be a four to six-man taxi squad that teams will use throughout the season.
The Lightning will play in the same division as their Stanley Cup opponent last season, the Dallas Stars. Also, joining the Lightning in their division will be Florida, Carolina, Detroit, Nashville, Columbus, Chicago, and Dallas.
On paper, this will be the toughest division in hockey. There will be no easy outs during the 56 game season.
The salary cap will be $81.5 million for the upcoming season.
Now that the Lightning knows what the salary cap number will be, GM Julien BriseBois can begin constructing the roster and making plans for the upcoming season.
The first order of business is to get under the salary cap. The Lightning is currently $2 million over the cap.
The second order of business needs to be signing Erik Cernak and Anthony Cirelli to new deals. This is where BriseBois will need to get creative. The only untouchables are Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Braydon Point, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Mikhail Sergachev.
There will be a lot of moving parts between now and when training camp opens in two weeks.
Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, and Yanni Guarde could all be moved before the season begins.