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NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols for return-to-play plan

The NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the framework to resume the season, deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

The sides continue to negotiate an extension to the collective bargaining agreement, and once a memorandum of understanding on the new CBA is reached, it must be approved by NHLPA’s executive committee. It will then go to the full membership for a vote, and also must be approved by the league’s Board of Governors.

The NHL’s 24-team postseason tournament is expected to take place in Edmonton, Alberta, and Toronto.

Las Vegas was one of the 10 finalists to serve as a hub city, but the NHL’s apparent shift toward Canada coincided with a surge in new COVID-19 cases in Clark County over the past week.

According to multiple reports, Sunday’s agreement would push training camp (Phase Three) from Friday to July 13, with teams arriving in the hub cities on July 26. Multiple reports indicate games could begin Aug. 1.

The NHL currently is in Phase Two of its return-to-play plan, with players voluntarily skating in groups of as many as 12 at team facilities.

The Golden Knights have a bye in the qualifying round and will participate in a round robin against St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas to determine the top four seeds in the Western Conference.

The Knights and other Western Conference teams are expected to play in Edmonton.

Players reportedly will be able to opt out of participating in the return-to-play plan and must notify their teams by Tuesday, according to TSN and Sportsnet.

The NHL paused its season March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During training camp, players and staff will be tested for COVID-19 two days prior to returning to training facilities and every other day afterward. Players who test positive for the coronavirus during the postseason will be deemed “unfit to play,” according to TSN.

The return-to-play protocols includes guidelines for players in the hub cities and according to Sportsnet, “violations … will result in, for clubs, significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft choices.”

Players’ families are not expected to be allowed for the qualifying round/round robin or the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The new CBA is expected to run through 2025-26 and will keep the salary cap frozen at $81.5 million for at least next season.

The Knights are projected to have a little less than $7 million in cap space with two pending restricted free agents (forwards Nick Cousins and Chandler Stephenson) along with four unrestricted free agents (forward Tomas Nosek, defensemen Deryk Engelland and Jon Merrill, and goaltender Robin Lehner).

Escrow, which is the portion of each players’ paycheck that is withheld to ensure a 50-50 revenue split with owners, will be capped at 20 percent for 2020-21 and decrease each year. Players also will defer 10 percent of their salary next season, and that will be repaid over the final three years of the CBA.

NHL players also will reportedly will be to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2026 Milan Olympics, among other new items.

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