The Dallas Stars would have a guaranteed spot in a reconfigured Stanley Cup Playoffs and the American Airlines Center is a potential host site for these games -- if they ever take place.
The NHL announced Tuesday it will abandon the rest of the regular season and go straight into the playoffs with 24 teams instead of 16 if it is able to resume play. The decision, announced Tuedsay by Commissioner Gary Bettman, is not a guarantee that games are coming back. The NHL and the NHL Players' Association must still figure out health and safety protocols and solve other issues, including where to play.
Still, ironing out the format represents significant progress since global sports were largely shut down in March as the coronavirus outbreak turned into a pandemic. Bettman has said the goal has always been to play again and award the Stanley Cup, but details remain uncertain.
Bettman said voluntary workouts could begin in early June and formal camps aren't expected to begin before July 1. Those camps are expected to last roughly three weeks as players return to the ice for the first time in months.
"Any plan for the resumption of play by definition cannot be perfect," Bettman said. "But we believe we have constructed an overall plan that includes all teams that as a practical matter might have had a chance of qualifying for the playoffs when the season was paused, and this plan will produce a worthy Stanley Cup champion who will have run the postseason gauntlet that is unique to the NHL."
Earlier this week, the league and NHLPA issued extensive protocols once players are allowed to return to their facilities. They include a maximum of six players on the ice at a time, no contact and no coaches for voluntary workouts.
Instead of limiting the Cup chase to the usual 16 teams that qualify for the playoffs, the league and players agreed to expand the field to 24 of its 31 teams because of the unusual circumstances.
The top four teams in each conference ranked by points percentage -- Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West -- will play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding for their playoff spot.
The remaining 16 teams will be seeded by conference, setting up best-of-five series in the East of No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Montreal, No. 6 Carolina vs. No. 11 New York Rangers, No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida and No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus. In the West, it would be No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago, No. 6 Nashville vs. No. 11 Arizona, No. 7 Vancouver vs. No. 10 Minnesota and No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 9 Winnipeg.
Games are expected to be played in two hub cities and Bettman said and 10 are in the running: Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the U.S. and Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.
Dallas would have a leg up on being a potential host site for several reasons.
There are currently strict travel quarantines in place in Canada and other U.S. locations have a more restrictive lockdown in place. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also signed off on the resumption of professional sports in the state.
The Stars' front office is in good graces with the league, with the recent successful hosting of the Winter Classic outdoor game and NHL Draft.
While there are still details to work out, including whether the first two rounds are best of five or seven, Bettman said he expects the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final to be played in full in one of the two hub cities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.