According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, multiple sources have told him that the NHL and the NHL Players Association are focused on an expanded playoff format that would see the top 12 teams from each conference based on points percentage be included. The first round would be considered a “play-in” round with four teams being eliminated, and then the following rounds resembling the 16 team playoff we are used to seeing.
The format would see the top four teams in each conference receive a “bye” into the ’round of 16′ while the next eight teams would take part in a best of five playoff. The following rounds after would be best of seven.
In the West Conference, this would mean that St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, and Dallas as the top four teams would automatically be in the round of 16. The next eight teams would be matched up as follows:
Edmonton vs Chicago (5 vs 12) with the winner to play Dallas.
Nashville vs Arizona (6 vs 11) with the winner playing Vegas.
Vancouver vs Minnesota (7 vs 10) with the winner playing Colorado.
Calgary vs Winnipeg (8 vs 9) with the winner playing St. Louis.
It’s important to note that this format isn’t exactly set in stone just yet. There is still some details to be worked out within this format of schedule of game, what to do with the four teams from each conference while the opening round is played. Friedman suggested those teams would play three games each to get ‘warmed up’ as well, but those details were unknown.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet also made sure to point out that right now all that is being discussed is just how the league will finish the season on the ice, and that bigger details such as where and when it will happen and what will be needed to make it happen, still have to be worked out.
Further to @FriedgeHNIC report on progress being made with the NHL's return-to-play format: Important to note this is just about how the 24-team system would work and doesn't cover other critical issues, such as testing protocols, hub cities, visas and many other things.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2020
Both the league and PA will continue to meet over the next few days as plans are finalized and will need to be brought to both the teams and the players as a whole for approval.