By Nelson Harris
Here are the critical dates for the upcoming NHL season:
Dec. 31: Training camps open for seven teams that did not participate in the Return to Play Plan for the 2019-20 season (Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks).
Jan. 3, 2021: Training camps open for the remaining 24 NHL teams, such as the Flyers.
Jan. 13: Regular season begins. Each of the eight teams in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times, and each team in the North Division (seven teams based in Canada) will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.
April 12: NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET).
May 8: End of regular season.
May 11*: Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds will be intradivisional, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. The four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their points total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3).
July 9*: Last possible day of Stanley Cup Final.
July 17: Deadline for teams to submit protected lists for 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET).
July 21: 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (8 p.m. ET).
July 23: First round of 2021 NHL Draft.
July 24: Rounds 2-7 of 2021 NHL Draft.
July 28: Restricted free agent/unrestricted free agent signing period begins (12 p.m. ET).