After weeks of negotiations between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association, it appears that both sides are nearing an agreement on the start of the 2020-21 season.
According to multiple reports, discussions between the NHL and NHLPA over financial issues relating to the upcoming season have been dealt with as the economic framework of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was freshly negotiated and officially agreed upon in July will not be changed.
With that giant hurdle now cleared, the focus turns to the logistics of the 2020-21 season, which includes the start of training camps, the schedule, playoffs, realignment, COVID-19 protocols, and much more.
Perhaps the biggest detail to come out of the reports over the last 24 hours is that the NHL has officially set its new target start date of the season for Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, which would include a 56-game schedule.
While a new target start date is certainly a positive sign of progress between both sides, there are reportedly still a number of topics that need to be agreed upon in the coming days.
One issue that will be something to pay attention to in the short-term is the opening of training camps across the NHL. When will camps open to the players, where will they practice, and which teams can hit the ice first?
TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger said on Tuesday that discussions have led towards teams being allowed 10-day training camps with no exhibitions games to get ready for the season.
Sportsnet hockey insider Elliotte Friedman also adds to the training camps discussion that non-playoff teams from the 2020 Return To Play format are looking to report as soon as Monday, Dec. 28, while the rest of the league reports to camps on Friday, Jan. 1. Those teams that did not take part in this past summer's Return To Play plan included the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and the Buffalo Sabres.
Where the opening of training camps may get complicated is in places with more strict COVID-19 restrictions. This currently affects teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Sharks, with more teams potentially being impacted as the spread of COVID-19 continues.
As for the topic of divisional realignment, TSN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun says that if the league does decide on realigning all four divisions, which could include a possible "All Canada" division, that the NHL Board of Governors will need to vote at least two-thirds in favor of any changes for the upcoming season.
The hope is that both the NHL and NHLPA can continue to make significant progress with discussions and be able to send an agreement to vote for approval between the Board of Governors and the NHLPA executive board by the end of the week. However, according to David Pagnotta from The Fourth Period, there is "no definitive timeline" on an announcement.