The NHL shared multiple draft schedules for the 2020-21 season with the National Hockey League Players' Association on Thursday, including one for a 56-game campaign, sources told TSN's Frank Seravalli.
The draft schedules are reportedly based on a Jan. 1 start date, but both sides have considered pushing that date back. A Jan. 15 start date is now being discussed as Jan. 1 no longer seems realistic, a source told TSN's Pierre LeBrun.
A 52-game season is also under consideration, LeBrun adds, but both the NHL and the NHLPA reportedly prefer a 56-game schedule.
It's clear the league won't play a full 82-game season since it apparently wants to conclude the Stanley Cup Final by early July, but it reportedly won't stage anything shorter than a 48-game slate; the league used a 48-game schedule during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
Seravalli added that these talks are unrelated to the NHL's recent economic requests.
Discussions for the coming season hit a snag when the league asked players to defer 20% of their salaries with escrow rising to 25%. Players originally agreed to defer 10% of their salaries with escrow capped at 20% when the two sides agreed to a new CBA prior to the return to play.
Commissioner Gary Bettman insisted Wednesday the league is "not trying to renegotiate" the CBA.
The players' union is apparently prepared for the worst-case scenario. NHLPA lawyers are reportedly considering two courses of action should the league cancel the season: filing an unfair labor practice complaint or filing a grievance through an arbitrator.
The league and the NHLPA seemingly need to settle their plans within the month in order to drop the puck in January. Teams will need at least two weeks of training camp, and some players arriving from outside North America may need to quarantine for 14 days before taking the ice.
Additionally, the two sides have yet to agree on a format for the season, though an all-Canadian division seems inevitable given Canada's border restrictions. The league and the NHLPA have apparently discussed playing series of two-to-three games like those used in MLB, and at least seven teams reportedly want to play their home games outdoors.