NHL, NHLPA officially ratify Return to Play plan and 4-year CBA extension

Play will resume Aug. 1 in Edmonton and Toronto.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association ratified a Return to Play and Collective Bargaining Agreement extension Friday. The NHLPA membership voted 502-135 in favor of ratifying the RTP package and full CBA, according to Frank Servalli of TSN.

The new CBA deal runs through the 2025-26 season, which will ensure labor peace for at least the next six years.

The NHL will move to Phase 3 of its four-part Return to Play plan Monday with formal training camps, and the 24-team tournament restart scheduled to begin Aug. 1 in two hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The Blackhawks and 11 other Western Conference teams will travel to Edmonton on July 24, while 12 Eastern Conference teams will be in Toronto.

The start times for the 10 days of Cup Qualifiers in Toronto will be: 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m. and 1 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in Edmonton. All times are adjusted to Central time. Game times may fluctuate by up to 30 minutes during this round.

The Blackhawks, the No. 12 seed, will play the No. 5 seed Oilers in a best-of-five qualifier series. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule: Blackhawks vs. Oilers

The conference final series and Stanley Cup will be completed in Edmonton. The conference finals are tentatively set to start Sept. 8; the Cup Final is scheduled to begin Sept. 22 and end no later than Oct. 4.

Each of the eight teams eliminated from the qualifiers will have an equal chance (12.5 percent) at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery. That drawing will be Aug. 10 with the NHL Draft set for Oct. 9 and 10.

Free agency this offseason will start after the NHL Draft.

The CBA extension also enables the NHL and NHLPA to chart long-term plans for an international calendar and events, including the Winter Olympics.

Here are some more highlights of the CBA:

— The NHL salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season with provisions for it to increase incrementally in the following seasons if hockey-related revenue reaches certain thresholds.

— Escrow (the percentage withheld from player salaries and placed in an account used to calculate a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue) will be capped at 20 percent for the 2020-21 season, 14-18 percent in 2021-22, 10 percent in 2022-23, and 6 percent in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.

— A year will automatically be added to the CBA, through the 2026-27 season and expiring Sept. 16, 2027, if after the 2024-25 season the players’ escrow debt exceeds $125 million but is less than $250 million.

— NHL players will return to Olympic competition at the 2022 Beijing Games and the 2026 Milano Cortina Games, pending agreements being reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee. NHL players did not participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after competing in the Winter Games in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.

— Players will defer 10 percent of their salaries for the 2020-21 season that will be paid out in equal installments over three seasons beginning in 2022-23.

— The playoff bonus pool will double this season from $16 million to $32 million. The compensation to each player will increase each round.

— The NHL minimum salary will increase from $700,000 to $750,000 in 2021-22 and 2022-23, and $775,000 in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.

— The maximum entry-level salary will increase from $925,000 for 2019, 2020 and 2021 NHL Draft picks to $950,000 for 2022 and 2023 NHL Draft picks, $975,000 for 2024 and 2025 NHL Draft picks, and $1 million for 2026 NHL Draft picks.