Reports on the NHL’s return to play in January are rolling out this weekend.
Insider Pierre LeBrun reports the season will start Jan. 13 (as expected) with a trade deadline scheduled for April 12. The NHL’s regular season -- expected to be cut short to just 56 games -- will end May 8.
The expansion draft (Seattle’s first season in the league is 2021-22) will be held July 21. Free agency will get going July 28.
So, to recap:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 20, 2020
Puck drop: Jan. 13
Trade deadline: April 12
End of reg season: May 8
Expansion draft: July 21
NHL draft: July 23-24
Free-agent Frenzy: July 28
July 29: LeBrun goes to cottage https://t.co/um2EkAIOc6
LeBrun added the latest the Stanley Cup final round would be held is July 15 -- it won’t go later than that.
Realigned divisions, playoff seeding altered
The divisions are realigning due to the cross-border travel ban between Canada and the United States. That means there will be one division with all seven Canadian teams and three divisions with the rest of the U.S. teams. Those three divisions will be realigned based on geography.
The divisions are expected to look like this:
Atlantic: Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Central: Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, Nashville, Tampa
Pacific: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas
Canada: All seven Canadian teams
The teams have shifted a few times in the American divisions over the past few weeks, but this appears to be the final settlement.
Teams will play within their divisions with the top four in each division making the playoffs. That is a change from the top three making the playoffs with two wild card spots in each conference scenario that we have become accustomed to since 2013.