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Breaking down the timeline for the 2021 NHL season

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This NHL season will be different than any we’ve seen before

2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Late Friday, we got news that that NHL and NHLPA had reached an agreement to play a 56 game season in 2021. Details were scarce as the two sides still need to vote on the deal but by all indications, the mews means that we only a few weeks away from the return of NHL hockey.

Now, we are starting to get more details as the insiders were woke up early Sunday morning to give some more information an the upcoming season. Between Bob McKenzie, Frank Seravelli, Pierre LeBrun and Daren Dreger, it seems as though most of the key dates have been leaked. They sum up as follows:

December 24 - deadline for players to opt out of the 2021 season

December 28 - waiver period begins

December 30 -The seven teams that did not play in the bubbles can open training camp

January 3 - Remaining 24 teams open training camp

January 13 - Season opener

February 1 - Teams may start requesting players waive their NMC for the expansion draft

February 11 - deadline to sign Group II RFAs (usually December 1)

March 12 - players on one-year deals can sign extensions (usually January 1)

April 12 - Trade Deadline

May 8 - End of regular season

May 11 - Playoffs begin

July 15 - The latest the Stanley Cup can be awarded

July 17 - Expansion draft protection lists tentatively due

July 21 - Expansion draft

July 23-24 - 2021 NHL Entry Draft

July 28 - Free agency opens

That is a very quick turn around between the end of the season and the 2021 offseason but it will be necessary if the league hopes to start the 2021-22 season on time.

Along with the dates, Elliotte Friedman is reporting that teams can have 36 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies at training camp. Teams will then have ten days to cut the roster down to 29 - a 23-man game day roster plus a 6-man taxi squad. Another key detail that Friedman mentioned is that the entry-level slide for rookies has been lowered from 10 games to seven. This is important for top prospects like Bowen Byram. Teams will only have six games to make a decision on them as opposed to the usual nine.

All these dates are still subject to change as the NHL still has a number of hurdles to overcome - particularly gaining approval from the provincial governments in Canada. As of now, the league still hasn’t gained approval from the governments for the team’s to be traveling and playing within Canada but the league remains optimistic that their quarantine protocol will meet the standards of the provinces.

With so much information and so many dates flying around, the league is expected to have a conference call with all 32 general managers sometime Sunday with the Board of Governors convening - hopefully for a vote of approval - on Monday.

Nothing is set in stone yet but the league has a clear plan and is moving forward very quickly. If nothing else, putting concrete dates out there should build the optimism in hockey fans that the NHL will be back sooner than later.