On Wednesday afternoon, the NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to ratify the memorandum of understanding between the league and the NHLPA, bringing us one step closer to the start of the regular season.
All that's needed for the new CBA to become official is for the players to approve the new deal by voting electronically which will begin Friday and be finished sometime on Saturday. Until that is finished a lot of official announcements will remain pending.
So, as of right now, what do we know or think we know regarding the upcoming schedule? Let's take a look at some of the information that's out there that has been confirmed already and some information that is very likely true.
We know for sure that the season will be 48 games and begin on January 19th. Due to all the tedious legal work going into drafting the memorandum of understanding for the sides to vote on, hopes of a getting in a 50-game season quickly fell by the wayside. The shortened season will be 48 games like it was in 1994-95. According to what Panther President Michael Yormark said in an interview on the Big "O" Show on 640 AM Tuesday evening, the Panthers will open at home on the 19th. No opponent was confirmed but Yormark said there is a good chance it will be the Carolina Hurricanes (the Washington Capitals have also been rumored as that evening's opponent). Until the schedule is officially released let's file that under something we think we know but obviously the source is a good one.
We also know how the schedule breaks down for the most part. The Panthers will play the ten Eastern Conference teams outside of the Southeast Division three times each. As far as division rivals go, the Panthers will play two of the other Southeast teams five times and the other two teams four times. If I had to guess, I would say Tampa Bay and Carolina will be the teams the Cats hook up with five times while Winnipeg and Washington would be the teams that get four games against the Panthers.
2013 Schedule Matrix:
Four games vs. two divisional opponents (4 x 2 = 8)
Five games vs. two divisional opponents (5 x 2 = 10)
Three games vs. 10 conference opponents, outside of division (3 x 10 = 30)
It seems pretty certain training camp will open on Sunday, January 13th. This is being widely reported although still not 100% official as nothing can happen until the players take their vote.
According to TSN, junior players like Jonathan Huberdeau can play in only five NHL games before being returned to the CHL this season without burning a year off their ELC. This is usually nine games but has been adjusted for the shortened schedule.
Well that's it for now, unfortunately there is just not a lot of information out there right now. Feel free to add in the comment section. I would except the floodgates to open over the weekend.