Inside the Finer Details of the 2020-21 NHL Season

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  • The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association have an agreement in place for many logistics surrounding the framework of the 2020-21 season.
  • Many fine details have been released in terms of key dates, taxi squads, relocation, contracts, opt-outs and expansion draft

In case you missed it, I broke down the NHL/NHLPA announcement for their 2020-21 season and some of the details that came out of it, mostly from a macro standpoint.

However, like many other such complicated matters, there is a certain amount of fine print as well.

Let’s summarize some of the details under the hood that may not be readily available in the news media.

Key Dates

Of course, with the agreement came a host of key dates that are, of course, altered from year’s past.

  • Dec. 24 – Deadline for players on non-playoff teams (from last season) to opt-out of season (with full pay)
  • Dec. 27 – Deadline for players on playoff teams to opt-out of the season
  • Dec. 28 – Waiver period begins
  • Dec. 31 – Non-playoff teams training camp begins
  • Jan. 3 – Training camp begins for all 2020 playoff teams
  • Jan. 13 – Regular season starts
  • Feb. 1 – Teams can begin requesting players waive their no-movement clauses for expansion draft purposes
  • Feb. 11 – Deadline for unsigned RFAs to sign to be eligible to play the 2020-21 season
  • March 12 – Players on one-year deals can sign extensions
  • Apr. 12 – Trade deadline
  • May 8 – Regular season ends
  • May 11 – Playoff Begin
  • July 15 – Last possible day of playoffs
  • 24 hours after playoffs end – Buyout period begins
  • July 17 – Date for teams to submit protected lists for expansion draft
  • July 21 – Seattle expansion draft
  • July 23-24 – NHL Entry Draft
  • July 28 – Free agency begins

Taxi Squads

With an $81.5M salary cap, teams will be permitted to have a 23-man roster that is compliant with that numbers. However, due to travel restrictions and potential quarantine rules if a player must be called up from the AHL on an emergency basis, teams will be allowed to carry a taxi squad consisting of four-to-six players in 2020-21.

Taxi squad players can practise and travel with the NHL team, but will only be allowed to play and count against the cap if they are “called up” to the NHL roster. These moves will be subject to regular re-call rules, so if a player requires waivers upon being sent from the NHL to the AHL, he will still be subject to waivers if send back to the taxi squad.

Contract rules will also be in effect. A player on a one-way contract who is assigned to the taxi squad will receive their full NHL salary, while those on a two-way deal would earn their minor league pay while on the taxi squad.

Teams must carry a minimum of three goalies with them at all times, whether it’s all three on the pro roster, or one available on the taxi squad.

Finally players on the taxi squad will not be permitted to practise or play with any other organization outside of the NHL team.


As per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, in the event an NHL team has to temporarily relocate this season, players are entitled to a hotel room for them and their family; rental car and parking; and per diem even while at “home”.

Johnston adds that is relocation lasts more than 28 days, additional benefits will be negotiated.


In previous NHL seasons, teenagers in their first NHL season could have their entry-level contract “slide” one year if they played fewer than 10 games. Johnston notes that the 10-game threshold has been reduced to seven games this season, meaning if a teenager plays in seven games, he burns a year off his entry-level deal.

Teams use this threshold window to evaluate the readiness of a teenage prospect, knowing they can send them to their previous club or a minor-league affiliate before they hit 10 games played (now seven).

Additionally, 27 games on the active roster also burns a year off the entry-level contract this season, previously 40.

Seattle Expansion Draft

A number of the key dates reference above revolve around the looming Seattle Kraken expansion draft taking place this summer. Not only do front office’s have plenty of business to conduct throughout the 56-game season (and playoffs), but they will do so while mindful of the expansion draft rules.

Every team — with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights — will have to five up a player to the Kraken in the expansion draft. Vegas was an expansion team in 2017, so the league is cutting them some slack.

The rules for the Vegas expansion draft will be identical to Seattle as such:

  • One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • Two forwards who are a) under contract for the 2021-22 season and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • One goaltender who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a RFA at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

Due to a shortened season, the games played requirements become prorated. Players with no-move clauses have to automatically be protected by their teams unless an agreement is made to waive it. The deadline to make that call is July 13.

All teams except Vegas must submit their protected lists by July 17. On July 18, Seattle will have the opportunity to speak with any RFA or UFA left unprotected from the draft, something no other team can do until July 28. Seattle could sign these players prior to the July 21 expansion draft, through that player would count as the selection from their former team’s roster.

Teams can choose to protect either seven forwards, three defenseman and a goaltender OR eight skaters and a goaltender.

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