NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that planning next season is proving to be a highly difficult task.
"It's a totally different challenge and requires a whole bunch of different considerations that I think probably, in some respects, are more challenging than the return to play plans," Daly told The Athletic's Michael Russo. "You need to gather as much information as you can, you need to take as much time as you can, and you need to make the best decisions you can."
One of the league's major obstacles continues to be the Canadian government's 14-day quarantine period for international travelers.
However, the federal government will test international travelers as a means to provide added flexibility to the existing quarantine rules, The Toronto Sun's Bryan Passifiume reports. Those who test negative for COVID-19 upon entering the country can forgo quarantine if they agree to a second test within a week.
Daly said that if the pilot program is successful and ultimately becomes permanent, his job will be significantly easier.
"The pilot program, at least on its face, if it goes well and it becomes more widespread, and that is the mechanism (for) health and safety ... that could be very, very helpful to a return to play strategy next season for us," Daly said.
If the 14-day quarantine remains in place, the league may be forced to get creative in terms of a realignment. With seven teams based north of the border, the league could conceivably form an all-Canadian division.
Daly, however, isn't committed to any specific format.
"I'm being honest when I say that there is no likely scenario. In other words, I couldn't pick one. I could identify 10-12 scenarios for you right now and I wouldn't be able to pick a likely scenario," he said. "While we have to make these decisions in a matter of weeks, I couldn't tell you that we're leaning any one over any other. It really is going to be a product of a whole bunch of considerations that have yet to materialize."
The NHL is targeting Jan. 1 as the potential start date for next season and reportedly hopes to do so at an aesthetically pleasing site.