The NHL moved forward yet again with their plans to resume the 2019-20 season and see it to an amicable conclusion on Thursday, announcing plans for phase two of their agenda to begin on Monday.
Small group workouts are now permitted, with no more than six players on the ice at once and no coaches or trainers present. The playoff format was also finalized, building on the original 24-team plan announced earlier. Once the ‘qualifying rounds’ (best-of-five) are completed, with the Islanders facing the Florida Panthers, the remaining 16 teams will be reseeded each round, culminating in awarding the Stanley Cup. All four rounds will remain a best-of-seven format.
Commissioner Gary Bettman also announced that phase three, which is the formal resumption of ‘training camp’, will not begin before July 10 and that all players and staff will be quarantined in the hub city designated to their team for the duration of the tournament. The Islanders are hoping to release a statement on the opening of their facility this weekend.
With the league holding firm, for now, that no player can sign a contract for this season, meaning that Sorokin must wait until possibly January (suggested start of 2020-21 season) to again see game action, he and his agent have been keeping their options open, speaking with CSKA on a potential return to his homeland. That appears an intelligent move on the goaltender and his agents part, but could impact New York greatly as there now exists a slim possibility that he never dons an Islanders sweater at all. The only positive news to date on that front is when deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league ‘might consider’ allowing them to sign their deal for this season, but not be allowed to partake in the playoffs.
In the meantime, we sit and we wait. Wait for a resolution to a myriad of questions that still exist. On some fronts, things are clearer today about the league’s plan. On others, there are still ways to go.