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After 5-game qualifying round, NHL playoffs to feature 7-game rounds
2:30 PM ET
  • Emily KaplanESPN

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      Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have agreed that the qualifying round of the 24-team tournament will be best-of-five series and all four playoff rounds will be best-of-seven series, the NHL announced Thursday.

The sides also determined that the tournament will not be bracketed but will be reseeded after every round.

These are two key details of the NHL’s return-to-play plan, but there is still plenty to hash out before games can resume. In an email to ESPN on Thursday, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league was still on track to have training camps open in July.

The NHL and NHLPA now must agree on health and safety protocols for games, and determine whether family members will be allowed to travel with players into the “bubble.” The NHL has said it plans to test players daily for the coronavirus once games resume. Commissioner Gary Bettman has projected that the NHL will require between 25,000 and 35,000 tests. Since each test will cost about $125, the price tag for testing will be in the millions.

“If we do come back and play, we’re going to have to put a lot of trust in the NHL to keep us safe and healthy,” Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said last week. “That’s a major, major step to take. Obviously, you go through the amount of players in our union, there are going to be players with those fears. They have to be made comfortable to come back. I don’t think there have ever been negotiations between the two sides that have gone perfectly.”

The NHL has determined it will resume play in two “hub” cities, which will be NHL markets. The NHL narrowed the list to 10 possible cities, but there is no time frame to make an announcement.

The NHL won’t mandate that players return to their playing cities until training camp.

“I think realistically, if we’re in training camp mid-July, that would be a good thing, and if we can be playing by the end of July or the beginning of August, that would be a good thing too,” Bettman said last week. “But if it has to slide more, then it’ll slide.”

There is speculation that training camp will be roughly three weeks, but that is something the NHL and NHLPA will have to negotiate, and Bettman said he will seek input from the players.

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