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NHLPA authorizes further negotiations with NHL on 24-team return-to-play format

The format would make the Blackhawks play a best-of-five play-in series against the Oilers.

2015 NHL All-Star Weekend - Commissioners Press Conference Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL Players’ Association Executive Board authorized further negotiations with the NHL over how a 24-team return-to-play scenario would work. The voting process involving all 31 player representatives began Thursday night, but the results were not made official until Friday.

“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup,” the NHLPA said in a statement. “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 agreed and when details are agreed upon, the format would have 12 teams from the Eastern and Western Conference with the top four teams based on points percentage earning a first-round bye. Seeds 5-12 would play a best-of-five play-in series to determine the remaining four seeds while the top four seeds compete against each other in a three-game round-robin format.

In this scenario, the Blackhawks would be the No. 12 seed and face the No. 5 Oilers to play the No. 4 Stars in the first round. The Blackhawks were 2-1 this season against the Oilers with a 3-1 win Oct. 14 and 4-3 victory March 5, both in Chicago. The Oilers defeated the Blackhawks 5-3 on Feb. 11 in Edmonton.

The NHL does not a have a firm timeline for when teams will be able to resume activities after having the season paused March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


No. 1 Blues
No. 2 Avalanche
No. 3 Golden Knights
No. 4 Stars

Play-in series teams

No. 5 Oilers vs. No. 12 Blackhawks
No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes
No. 7 Canucks vs. No. 10 Wild
No. 8 Flames vs. No. 9 Jets


No. 1 Bruins
No. 2 Lightning
No. 3. Capitals
No. 4 Flyers

Play-in series teams

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens
No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers
No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers
No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets