On Sunday, following a call with the NHL Board of Governors, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced they have agreed to a plan for a 56-game season, to begin on Jan. 13, 2021. Health and Safety Protocols, transition rules and the full 2020-21 schedule are expected to be released this week.
There’s still plenty of details about the season that they were able to hammer out. Here’s what we know so far about the 2021 Los Angeles Kings season:
Training camp for the 2021 season will begin on Dec. 31, 2020 for those teams who were not part of the 2020 postseason. The teams who did play last summer will open their training camps on Jan. 3, 2021. There will not be any pre-season exhibition play before the season begins on Jan. 13.
Teams will be allowed 36 skaters and an “unlimited number of goalies” for training camp. Teams will be expected to carry three goaltenders on their roster, or between their roster and taxi squad.
To accommodate for players missing games due to COVID-19 protocols, teams will carry a taxi squad of four to six extra players. These squads are allowed to practice with the NHL team and join NHL team activities (and, in fact, are barred from participation in AHL practices and activities) and may travel with the team, though it is not required.
Even though players on the taxi squad are only allowed to practice with the NHL team, players on two-way contracts are paid their AHL salary and players who would require waivers to be sent down to the minors will also have to clear waivers to make the taxi squad.
CapFriendly compiled a full list of taxi squad details here:
Border closures have necessitated a temporary re-alignment of the four league divisions, resulting in one all-Canadian division and three divisions in the United States. To limit travel while the pandemic is on-going, play for the regular season will be limited to intradivisional play only. Each team in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times, while each team in the North Division will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.
As predicted, the Kings will enter a new “West Division,” that includes the five US-based Pacific Division teams, plus three additions from the former Central Division. There were a few variations on which among the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild would end up shifting west, but the final alignment leaves Dallas with the Central teams.
Schedule and Important Dates
Critical Dates, 2021 NHL Season
|Dec. 28||Waivers period begins|
|Dec. 31||Training Camp for non-playoffs teams begins|
|Jan. 3||Training Camp for playoff teams begins|
|Jan. 13||Season starts|
|Feb. 1||Teams can begin requesting players waive their NMC for expansion draft purposes|
|April 12||Trade Deadline|
|May 8||Season ends|
|May 11||Playoffs begin|
|July 15||Last possible day of playoffs|
|24 hrs after playoffs end||Buyout period begins|
|July 21||Seattle Expansion Draft|
|July 23||2021 NHL Entry Draft, Round 1|
|July 24||2021 NHL Entry Draft, Rounds 2-7|
|July 28||Free agency begins|
We don’t have a full schedule of games yet, but it’s expected that games will be played in a series of a few games in one location, again to limit travel. The NHL says it is prepared to have one or more neutral site per division to host teams who are not able to open in their arenas.
It’s expected that most teams will at least open the season without fans, though that decision is left to teams and what their local regulations will allow. The Kings will not be hosting fans at Staples Center.
“The LA Kings are excited about today’s official announcement and thrilled to drop the puck in January,” said LA Kings President and Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille in a release on Sunday. “Our organization will do whatever possible to ensure a safe, healthy environment for our players and our staff during this unique season. Unfortunately, we will not be able to host fans at STAPLES Center at this time. However, we will continue to work with our tremendous broadcast partner at FOX Sports West to help share this experience with the entire LA Kings family, who continue to enthusiastically support us through this challenging time, and hockey fans everywhere. We have not played a game since March. It is great for LA Kings hockey to be back.”
Playoffs will begin on May 11, 2021, with best-of-seven series over four rounds. There will be no conference-based “wild card” ranking this postseason. Instead, the top four teams in each division will qualify for playoffs — again, limiting play to intradivision through the second round of playoffs. The four teams that advance to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their regular season points total, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds playing each other.