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News and notes: Toronto shortlisted for hub city, NHL start date set, player contracts extended and bigger workout group

Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a huge news day around the NHL and I’m going to try and tie it all up in this post.

Toronto shortlisted as hub city

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun has reported that Toronto remains in the mix and has been shortlisted, along with Edmonton, Vancouver and Las Vegas, as a potential hub city.

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Toronto remains in the mix and according to sources MLSE resubmitted its updated bid on Sunday after also tweaking it earlier last week. Toronto got feedback last week from the NHL/NHLPA on a few things with its bid and responded with an update Sunday.

So where that leaves Toronto, it’s hard to tell. One of the major concerns with the Toronto bid is whether the bubble can be tight enough downtown. But on the flip side, Toronto is in the Eastern time zone which presumably would help the TV schedule, and has hosted all kinds of major events including the 2016 World Cup of Hockey; there’s a lot of know-how there.

The 24-team tournament starts July 30th

ESPN is reporting that the league new it would be inevitable there would be Phase 2 outbreaks as players would still be unrestricted in their movements. In Phase 3 and 4, there will be more restrictions in place keeping players in “bubble environments” making outbreaks more unlikely. Negotiations are reportedly still ongoing as to what those phases will look like.

Despite that, the New York Posts’ Larry Brooks has reported the league’s 24-team tournament will begin on July 30th. A two-week training camp will occur before teams would fly to their respective hub cities on July 23rd and 24th and then teams would play one exhibition game there. Following that, qualifying rounds would take place.

A Western Conference player reportedly told The Athletic “guys are not happy. This is why we better have a full player vote and not just an executive board vote. But I’m not convinced (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr) is going to allow that because he knows there’s so many of us on the fence. That’s why I think the league was trying to be hush-hush on these positive tests. In my opinion, no way we play.”

Extended player contracts

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Monday that all expiring player contracts and work permits will be extended until Oct. 31 after the NHL and NHLPA agreed upon it. With the NHL league year typically running from July 1 to June 30, this means all players will be eligible to play through the league’s 24-team play-in format.

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This also hints that we may see NHL Free Agency startup sometime in early November and potentially as soon as November 1st given the way the league schedule has operated in the past.

Here’s the current list of Leafs players on expiring contracts as per Puckpedia:

RFA’s: Ilya Mikheyev, Denis Malgin, Frederik Gauthier, Travis Dermott, Max Veronneau, Jeremy Bracco, Teemu Kivihalme, Pontus Aberg and Kasimir Kasisuo.

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UFA’S: Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Kyle Clifford, Jason Spezza, Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie, Mikka Salomaki, Garnett Wilson, Kevin Gravel, Tyler Gaudet, Matt Lorito, Michael Paliotta and Miro Aaltonen.

Practice groups to be expanded

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Monday that effective Tuesday, the league will allow Phase 2 skating groups to include up to 12 players. Small group workouts have been ongoing since June 8th and the updated numbers is reportedly a part of the second phase of the league’s return-to-play plan.

Training camps are scheduled to begin on July 10th.

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On Twitter: @zjlaing