It has been a big week for the Vegas Golden Knights.
In a week that is shaping up to be huge in the NHL’s Return To Play Plan, the Vegas Golden Knights have been given a lot more clarity on what the short-term future looks like.
It was announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday that the 2019-20 Regular Season is now in the books, with 24 teams set to return at some point this year for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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The seven teams who are now done for the year will go straight into the 2020 NHL Lottery Draft, where they will eventually be joined by the eight teams who fail to qualify for the Postseason.
We did a really detailed breakdown of the Return To Play Plan and what it means for the Golden Knights, which you can read here.
But, on a huge day in the NHL, there was a steady stream of key nuggets of information and we’ve decided to round up some of them right here.
From added exhibition games to no home advantage, we’ve got you covered with some more things you need to know about the NHL’s Return To Play Plan.
Let’s delve in…
No Home-Ice Advantage
There is a compelling caveat with the NHL Hub Cities.
So, in case you missed it, let’s catch you up quickly. The NHL are looking to choose two Hub Cities from 10 candidates.
One will host the Eastern Conference and the other city will host the Western Conference.
Vegas is one of the main contenders but, while many expect T-Mobile Arena would host the Western Conference with the Golden Knights enjoying home-ice advantage, you will be left disappointed.
Because, per NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley, the league wants to take away any perceived advantage by making sure teams don’t have home ice advantage.
Mind you, with no fans in the building I’m not sure how much of an advantage it would be.
Anyway, I digress.
How the NHL moves forward will be interesting given that nine of the 10 cities being considered will have teams involved in the Postseason.
LA, the only city that won’t have a franchise participating, is considered a strong favorite to become a Hub City while the NHL could move the Western Conference to an Eastern Conference city.
We’ll know more over the coming weeks but, whatever happens, don’t expect to see the Golden Knights play at T-Mobile Arena anytime soon even if Vegas is chosen as a Hub City.
One big nugget to come out late last night was the fact that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley confirmed that no team can sign current-year contracts.
So, in simple terms and to use a direct example, prospect Jack Dugan won’t be able to sign his Entry-Level Contract with the Golden Knights now and play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Instead, Dugan’s contract will kick into action from the 2020-21 season.
With a three-week Training Camp expected, perhaps longer, NHL rosters will now be expanded and AHL players will be eligible to play immediately.
The American Hockey League season was cancelled earlier this month, so the Golden Knights will be able to have their pick of players they wish to call-up and have on standby.
This makes a lot of sense because, given the layoff, a rash of injuries are to be expected in the early days of Training Camps.
Rosters could be expanded up to 30 players, so rookies in the ilk of Lucas Elvenes could be in line to make his NHL debut during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which would be pretty neat.
Knocking Off Rust
On that note, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported on Tuesday that each team will be given two exhibition games and each franchise will be able to carry up to 28 skaters and as many goalies as they wish.
That would be in addition to the three-game, in-conference round-robin tournament for the Golden Knights, so by the time the Postseason begins, they should be back in a groove.
Couple of other notes from Return-to-Play protocol: Two exhibition games per team; 28 skaters and as many goalies as you wish to carry.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 27, 2020
Adding two exhibition games is a good idea, especially for those teams involved in the Play-In series, as it gives them an opportunity to find their legs before jumping into a best-of-five series that will either end or extend their season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman remains confident that the 2020-21 NHL season won’t be impacted at all.
Even if the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs run through September, Bettman revealed that next season can be pushed back to as late as January, with starting the 2020-21 season with the Winter Classic even an option.
At this point, the NHL are considering everything on the table and you have to give them credit for being creative when it comes to ensuring a Stanley Cup Champion is crowned in 2019-20, while also making sure that next year remains protected.
To finish, it is important to remember that the Stanley Cup Playoffs will still be a 16-team format, it is just going to be a different way of getting there.
Is the plan flawed? Yes, of course.
But, in this new world we currently live in, there is no perfect solution and you have to give the NHL full credit for doing everything within their power to try and salvage the 2019-20 season.
It gives the Vegas Golden Knights a chance to finish what they started and, while there is still a long way to go, it looks like they will be able to battle for the right to lift the greatest prize in all of sports.