After 113 days and a 16-hour negotiation marathon that wrapped up at 5am et on Sunday morning, a tentative deal on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association.
"Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed to reporters early Sunday morning. "We have to dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon."
The next stage is documentation and ratification of the deal, with the start date and number of games in the 2012-13 season still to be announced depending on how long the final process takes. According to TSN Hockey Analyst Pierre LeBrun, the Board of Governors will convene in New York City to vote on the new CBA on Wednesday.
"Hopefully we're at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch," said NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. "We'll get back to business as usual just as fast as we can. Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us."
TSN Hockey Analyst Pierre LeBrun reported that January 19 is the more probable start date for the season, however if ratification goes quickly January 15 is still in play.
According to TSN Hockey Analyst Aaron Ward and TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, the agreement features the following elements:
- The players' share of hockey-related revenue will drop from 57 percent to a 50-50 split for all 10 years.
- The league coming off their demand for a $60 million cap in Year 2, meeting the NHLPA's request to have it at $64.3 million - which was the upper limit from last year's cap. The salary floor in Year 2 will be $44 million.
- The upper limit on the salary cap in the first year is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million (all pro-rated). The cap floor will be $44 million.
- The 10-year deal also has an opt-out clause that kicks in after eight years.
- Each team will be allowed two amnesty buyouts that can be used to terminate contracts after this season and next season. The buyouts will count against the players' overall share in revenues, but not the team's salary cap.
- The salary variance on contracts from year to year cannot vary more than 35 per cent and the final year cannot vary more than 50 per cent of the highest year.
- A player contract term limit for free agents will be seven years and eight years for a team signing its own player.
- The draft lottery selection process will change with all 14 teams fully eligible for the first overall pick. The weighting system for each team may remain, but four-spot move restriction will be eliminated.
- Supplemental discipline for players in on-ice incidents will go through NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan first, followed by an appeal process that would go through Bettman. For suspensions of six or more games, a neutral third party will decide if necessary.
- Revenue sharing among teams will spread to $200 million. Additionally, an NHLPA-initiated growth fund of $60 million is included.
- Teams can only walk away from a player in salary arbitration if the award is at least $3.5 million.
- The NHL had hoped to change opening of free agency to July 5, but the players stood firm and it remains July 1 in the new agreement. But with a later ending to this season, free agency for this summer will start at a later date.
- The NHL is suggesting the trade deadline for this season be April 5. The NHLPA has not yet agreed to it. Last year's deadline was February 27.
Also, a decision on NHL participation at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be made outside of the new CBA. While it is likely that the league will participate, the IIHF and IOC will have discussions with the NHL and Players' Association.
"I am happy a deal has been reached and excited to get back playing hockey," Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told LeBrun on Sunday morning.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also greeted the news with relief.
"Glad to see a deal between the #NHL players and the league. Great news for hockey fans and communities across Canada." Harper tweeted.
Both sides met face-to-face along with federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh for 16 straight hours from Saturday afternoon through the early hours of Sunday morning to get the deal done. The two sides spent Friday in separate rooms while Beckenbaugh went back and forth to each group searching for middle ground on the unresolved issues between the two sides.
Depending on when a new CBA is reached, the league - according to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun - has 50-game and 48-game schedules drawn up. A 50-game season would start on Jan. 15 and a 48-game season would start on Jan. 19. The existing 2012-13 NHL schedule was already canceled through Jan. 14.
"Everyone is obviously relieved that it's over and done with, for all intents and purposes, and we're able to kind of move on to what we kind of enjoy doing a lot more than this," said Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who was involved in the negotiations.
The NHL and NHLPA had been without a CBA since the previous one expired just before midnight on Sept. 15. The lockout cost the league 510 regular-season games, including the New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game in Columbus.
While the CBA negotiations didn't fall apart and force the cancellation of the season, they certainly brought plenty of drama and frustration for the owners, players and fans.
The NHL's first offer tabled on July 13 proposed that the players' share in revenue drop from 57 per cent to 43 per cent and suggested contract rule changes with term limits of five years and an extended entry-level system.
The league eventually responded with another proposal on Oct. 16 in an effort to preserve an 82-game season with a 50-50 split of revenues. The players responded with three of their own proposals that were quickly rejected.
On Dec. 4, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and four new team executives - including Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum and Pittsburgh's Ron Burkle - entered the talks, making enough headway for NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to address the media together for the first time. However, things took another turn for the worse when Fehr presented a new proposal that was rejected by the league.
Then on Dec. 14, the NHLPA began voting on giving the executive board the authority to file a disclaimer of interest, which would have given the union - until Jan. 2 - the power to dissolve and file anti-trust lawsuits against the league. Two weeks later, the league came back with a 288-page proposal that softened demands on contract and salary rules and reintroduced $300 million in 'make whole' payments.
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