NHLPA approves 24-team return to play format

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The NHL Players' Association's executive committee authorized moving forward in talks with the league on returning to play from the coronavirus suspension, approving 24 teams making the playoffs with other aspects still to be negotiated

    The NHL Players' Association's executive committee authorized moving forward in talks with the league on returning to play from the coronavirus suspension, approving 24 teams making the playoffs with other aspects still to be negotiated Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 5/22/2020 10:35 PM

It's far from a sure thing, but it's beginning to look like the Blackhawks just may make the playoffs this season.

That's because the NHLPA Executive Board announced Friday night that it has "authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format." The statement by the players association went on to say: "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."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If this actually takes place -- most likely in July -- here's how things would look:

• The top four teams in each conference would receive byes.

• The rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs would begin with a best-of-5 play-in tournament. This means the Hawks -- the 24th and final team in, by the way -- would open against the Edmonton Oilers.

• While the play-in series are going on, the top four teams would play warm-up games. A report by Sportsnet said that those games would count and standings points will be awarded that will affect the first-round seedings.

• Games will likely be played without fans and in hub cities around the continent. According to the Associated Press, Las Vegas has become the city most mentioned. Other cities include Nashville, Columbus, Raleigh, North Carolina, St. Paul, Minnesota and Edmonton, Alberta.

There are still myriad hurdles to be cleared, of course, but the NHL seems intent on crowning a 2020 champion.

The Hawks were dealing with a host of injuries during the season, but if play resumes they will definitely get defenseman Adam Boqvist (concussion) back, according to a source. Calvin de Haan (shoulder) and forward Zack Smith (back) may also be able to return.

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