Report: NHL, NHLPA Agree to 24-Team Playoff Format

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The NHL and NHL Players' Association agreed on Thursday to a 24-team playoff format for the 2020 postseason, according to ESPN's Emily Kaplan

The postseason will kick off with a 24-team qualifying round, which will feature a best-of-five series. The top four teams in each conference will automatically advance, though they will play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding in the first round, per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. The remaining 16 teams will then play the best-of-five series, with the eight winners joining the eight teams that automatically advanced.

Once the 16-team field is set, the playoffs will continue with the traditional set of four, seven-game rounds. 

The NHL will hold the 2020 playoffs in two "hub" cities, per Kaplan. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will need between 25,000 and 35,000 COVID-19 tests for the playoffs. Players are expected to be tested daily when games resume. 

No return date has been set for the 2019-20 season, though the NHL is aiming to begin training camps in July. 

"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, per Kaplan. "But if it has to slide more, then it'll slide."