The NHL is making up their 2020 schedule as they go along, and the ride isn’t always smooth. The draft was going to be in early June and then it wasn’t. They were going to extend the signing deadline for players on expiring rights to July 1, and then they didn’t. But there are some hard and fast rules about what happens in June that have to be dealt with.

The first one comes up on June 15, which is today, when the first buyout window opens. There are two periods in the offseason where teams are allowed to buyout players, the first is mid June. Any player who was on a team’s reserve list at the most recent trade deadline date is fair game as long as their cap hit is over a certain minimum that goes up each year. Last year’s was $3,455,438. This buyout window lasts to the end of business on June 30.

The second window comes later in the year, after free agency, and it requires a team to have had an arbitration filing prior to that time to open.

June 15 is also the first deadline for teams to file club-elected arbitration.

However, June 15 can come and go without the NHL sorting out exactly how they’ll reschedule the buyout window or that arbitration filing. The actual wording of the rule in the CBA is:

beginning the later of June 15 or forty-eight (48) hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals

Two days after the Stanley Cup Finals is definitely later. So if they like, the NHL can just forget about that until they’re ready to handle a few other things.

Elliotte Friedman reported this recently:

Teams that are out of the playoffs can make trades with each other. Another idea being discussed is whether or not those clubs will be able to buy out players or give qualifying offers later this month. That would be the normal window, but this world is anything but normal right now.

Which would make this all very complicated indeed.

Since the NHL already cancelled the NHL awards and re-scheduled the draft lottery to June 26, the next date they have to worry about is actually the day before the lottery.

June 25 is supposed to be the day Qualifying Offers are due for expired RFAs. Any RFA who doesn’t receive a QO by that date becomes a free agent on July 1. That’s also the date that UFAs can interview with clubs.

One of those two rules is qualified by “the Monday after the Entry Draft”, but only one of them. The UFA discussion period is “but not later than June 25”, so that’s a hard deadline to move all the dates related to free agency and contracts to sometime after the playoffs are over (should they actually occur). Or to make up two separate sets of rules if they like making things overly complicated.

Teams and players really should be aware now what these rules are, but these dates, and free agency itself has to be put off for most of the NHL.

It also seems very unlikely that teams will want to be paying out signing bonuses on July 1. Normally, teams have a chance to buyout or trade a player before the bonus is due. If it suddenly became impossible to trade a player before paying out that salary, well, think of the complaints! Bobby Ryan is owed $2 million on that day, so maybe that’s where the push for two sets of rules is coming from.

Time is ticking down, and the NHL has to get some agreements in place very soon with the NHLPA on this issue, with free agency the big looming problem that must be solved quickly. We should have some news on this very soon.