In a normal year, the NHL should be about six weeks into its 2020-21 season.
But in a year like this, it's good news that the league continues to prepare for the start of hockey about six weeks from now.
Multiple reports have indicated that the NHL and its players' association (the NHLPA) are in daily contact with each other, attempting to work toward an agreement on a resumption of play. These talks range from working out details on how long the season will be and temporary division realignment, to player salaries and COVID-19 protocols.
At this time, all indications are that a Jan. 1 regular season start is still the goal. That's six weeks from now, however, and with training camps, travel restrictions, and many players overseas, time is quickly becoming of the essence.
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the league and players have discussed a season as short as 48 games and with as many as 72 games. Across the spectrum, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 games seems to be the most accepted result, with training camps (hopefully) opening in the middle of December.
We're a ways from that and plenty of progress must be made – particularly on the financial front, where players will likely be asked for either prorated salaries or deferred payments. As the clock winds down to decision time, this is the issue to keep an eye on. Owners and teams aren't exactly making money right now and players rightfully want to be paid as close to full salary as possible (taking into account a shortened season).
LeBrun also reports that the NHLPA's Return To Play committee has been meeting on a daily basis for the past week, though no official meetings have transpired between them and the NHL.
Amongst the 16 players on that committee is David Savard. The 30-year-old Blue Jackets defensemen is entering his 10th NHL season.
In addition to Savard, a bevy of former Blue Jackets are also on the committee, including Sam Gagner, Ian Cole, Ron Hainsey, and Ryan Dzingel.
Players that I hear are on the Return to Play committee:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 17, 2020
David Backes, Darren Helm, David Savard, Justin Faulk, Lars Eller, Sam Gagner, Justin Abdelkader, Ian Cole, Zach Hyman, Ron Hainsey, Claude Giroux, Ryan Dzingel, Andrew Copp, Alex Biega, Chris Kreider, Mark Scheifele. https://t.co/wC73SwMf79
As they did prior to the playoff bubble – with a different set of players – the committee is tasked with providing input and solutions to some of the challenges of playing in a pandemic.
Playing within a bubble does not seem to be an option that is on the table at this time, but the committee is likely to provide a strong voice on subjects such as travel, scheduling, and COVID-19 safety measures.