The NHL clarified its plan for processing conditional trades involving 2020 draft picks in a memo sent to teams this week, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.
With the NHL and NHLPA agreeing upon a unique 24-team playoff format, the league has ruled teams must advance to the round of 16 for trade stipulations contingent on playoff appearances to take effect. Teams' round-by-round progression in the postseason will be measured from the 16-team stage onward.
"More specifically, for trade condition purposes, a club will not be deemed to have qualified for the playoffs unless or until they have progressed into the round of 16, and 'playoff games/rounds' will only include the games/rounds played in the round of 16 or later," the league wrote, according to LeBrun. "We believe this interpretation will best reflect the intentions of the parties at the time of the trade."
Several deals around the league were left in question when the NHL suspended its season on March 12.
The Vancouver Canucks dealt a conditional 2020 first-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning last offseason; if Vancouver missed the 2020 postseason, the pick was to convert into a 2021 first-rounder. The Lightning sent that pick to the New Jersey Devils in February in a deal for Blake Coleman.
Under the league's ruling, the Devils will own the pick in 2020 if the Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild in the 24-team play-in round. If the Canucks lose, New Jersey will receive Vancouver's 2021 selection instead.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, sent a conditional first-round pick to the Wild in February in exchange for Jason Zucker. If Pittsburgh were to miss the playoffs this season, the club would have the option to keep the pick and instead send Minnesota a first-round selection in 2021. The Penguins will face that decision if the Montreal Canadiens upset them in the play-in.
Despite declaring the 2019-20 regular season officially concluded, the league has yet to rule on the conditions for several other trades, such as the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames' deal to swap forwards Milan Lucic and James Neal.
The Flames were to receive a 2020 third-round pick from the Oilers if Neal scored 21 goals and Lucic scored 10 or fewer goals than Neal this season. Neal had 19 goals when the league halted play, while Lucic had eight.