It's the one phrase that can send a chill down your spine on the sweatiest summer July day.
Rest easy, for now: the NHL and NHL Players' Association has guaranteed labour peace for each of the next five seasons, through the 2019-20 campaign.
While another hockey work stoppage may not be on the radar of most - the lost half-season of 2012-13 still all too fresh - a group of the league's highest-paid players are already gearing up for the possibility.
New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan became the latest player to negotiate protection in his contract in case of labour strife when he inked a six-year, $39-million deal on Monday.
Technically, the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through Sept. 15, 2022 - or shortly before the opening of training camps for the 2022-23 season. But either the NHL or NHLPA can opt out of the agreement on Sept. 15, 2020.
That's why quite a few players, like Stepan, have negotiated hefty signing bonuses to be paid on July 1, 2020 - before any side could possibly opt out.
Stepan is scheduled to earn $5 million in 2020-21, according to generalfanager.com. But $3 million of that will be paid up front on July 1, 2020, leaving only $2 million of his salary "unprotected," or subjected to a possible salary rollback (as in 2005-06) or a pro-rated amount (as in 2012-13).
The 2012-13 lockout cost players approximately 40 per cent of their salary. That meant a significant chunk of money, particularly for stars Sidney Crosby ($4.5 million) and Alex Ovechkin ($5.5 million). Crosby and Ovechkin each signed their long-term deals prior to this current CBA, meaning they would've been unaware of the opt-out and expiration dates to protect themselves in 2020.
Since the most recent lockout, 43 players league-wide have signed contracts stretching into 2020-21, already accounting for more than $234 million in payroll that year.
More than one-third (16) of those 43 players will be paid a signing bonus of at least $1 million on July 1, 2020, to limit the risk of income lost in another work stoppage. All 16 of those contracts were signed after the 2012-13 lockout, which lasted 119 days.
Two other players, Vladimir Tarasenko and Brendan Gallagher, will not earn signing bonuses but have another kind of "lockout protection" built-in since their actual salaries drop off significantly from their cap hit.
Tarasenko, who signed his massive $60 million deal on July 7, will be just 28 in the summer of 2020. His salary for 2020-21 drops from $9.5 million to $5.5 million. It goes back up to $9.5 million for 2021-22, a year where labour tension is unlikely given the circumstances, then back down to $5.5 million for 2022-23, the first season guaranteed to be played under a new CBA.
In some contracts, like the $52.5-million deal Ryan O'Reilly signed in Buffalo this summer, the signing bonuses were negotiated to make the contract difficult to be bought out.
In others, like the one Stepan signed this week, there is no way to explain bonuses as anything other than lockout protection. Stepan will not draw a signing bonus in either 2018 or 2019, but it picks back up for 2020.
Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban and Evgeni Malkin each do not earn signing bonuses in the summer of 2019, but do earn them in 2020. Every player with a signing bonus is still subject to the withholding of escrow to ensure a proper revenue split between players and owners.
What is most interesting are the seven long-term contracts signed this off-season that do not feature any sort of work stoppage security. Dougie Hamilton, Brandon Saad, Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Kesler, Andrej Sekera, Adam Larsson and John Klingberg will all reportedly have their entire 2020-21 salaries subjected to whatever comes in the future by way of labour relations, according to data on generalfanager.com.
Claude Giroux ($7.2 million) and Tuukka Rask ($6.5 million) stand to lose the most among contracts which were signed with knowledge of the new CBA's opt-out and expiration dates.
Either the agents for these players have faith the sport will avoid a fourth work stoppage in three decades, or they believe their client is young enough (future earnings) and has already earned enough to offset any potential lost income. Or, the negotiating club simply was not willing to pay a lump-sum signing bonus. The latter seems unlikely, considering 24 of the 30 teams have at least one "lockout-guarded" contract on the books.
In truth, no one can predict the future - not even Gary Bettman or Don Fehr.
Players (and agents) don't seem to be interested in guessing. So far, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of the $234 million set to be earned in 2020-21 is fully guaranteed through the form of signing bonuses.
With loads of big names, such as Steven Stamkos, Mark Giordano and Jake Voracek brokering new deals soon, it will be worth watching to see whether that number increases.
Frank Seravalli can be reached at email@example.com.
NHL contracts through 2020-21 season
|Player||Team||Cap Hit||'20-21 Salary||'20-21 Bonus||Protected||Percentage||Signed|
|Corey Perry||ANA||$8.625M||$7M||$3M||Yes||43%||March 18, 2013|
|Ryan Getzlaf||ANA||$8.25M||$6M||$3M||Yes||50%||March 8, 2013|
|Ryan Kesler||ANA||$6.875M||$6.675M||$0||No||0%||July 15, 2015|
|Tuukka Rask||BOS||$7M||$6.5M||$0||No||0%||July 10, 2013|
|David Krejci||BOS||$7.25M||$7M||$0||No||0%||Sept. 4, 2014|
|Patrice Bergeron||BOS||$6.875M||$4.375M||$1M||Yes||23%||July 12, 2013|
|Ryan O'Reilly||BUF||$7.5M||$6M||$5M||Yes||83%||July 3, 2015|
|Jordan Staal||CAR||$6M||$6M||$0||No||0%||July 1, 2012|
|Brandon Saad||CBJ||$6M||$6.5M||$0||No||0%||July 3, 2015|
|Brandon Dubinsky||CBJ||$5.85M||$5.85M||$0||No||0%||July 11, 2014|
|Nick Foligno||CBJ||$5.5M||$5.5M||$0||No||0%||Dec. 31, 2014|
|Dougie Hamilton||CGY||$5.75M||$6M||$0||No||0%||June 30, 2015|
|Duncan Keith||CHI||$5.538M||$2.65M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||Dec. 3, 2009|
|Marian Hossa||CHI||$5.275M||$1M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||July 1, 2009|
|Artem Anisimov||CHI||$4.55M||$3M||$1.5M||Yes||50%||July 1, 2015|
|Jonathan Toews||CHI||$10.5M||$7M||$5M||Yes||71%||July 9, 2014|
|Patrick Kane||CHI||$10.5M||$7M||$5M||Yes||71%||July 9, 2014|
|Gabriel Landeskog||COL||$5.571M||$6.5M||$0||No||0%||Aug. 15, 2013|
|John Klingberg||DAL||$4.25M||$5.75M||$0||No||0%||April 17, 2015|
|Henrik Zetterberg||DET||$6.083M||$1M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||Jan. 28, 2009|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||EDM||$6M||$6M||$0||No||0%||Sept. 19, 2013|
|Andrej Sekera||EDM||$5.5M||$4.5M||$0||No||0%||July 1, 2015|
|Roberto Luongo||FLA||$5.333M||$1M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||Sept. 10, 2009|
|Nick Bjugstad||FLA||$4.1M||$5.25M||$0||No||0%||Dec. 31, 2014|
|Jonathan Quick||LAK||$5.8M||$3.5M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||June 28, 2012|
|Dustin Brown||LAK||$5.875M||$4M||$0||No||0%||July 18, 2013|
|Jeff Carter||LAK||$5.272M||$2M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||Nov. 13, 2010|
|Alec Martinez||LAK||$4M||$4M||$0||No||0%||Dec. 3, 2014|
|Marian Gaborik||LAK||$4.875M||$3.075M||$0||No||0%||June 25, 2014|
|Zach Parise||MIN||$7.538M||$8M||$0||No||0%||July 4, 2012|
|Ryan Suter||MIN||$7.538M||$8M||$0||No||0%||July 4, 2012|
|Devan Dubnyk||MIN||$4.333M||$2.5M||$0||No||0%||June 26, 2015|
|Jonas Brodin||MIN||$4.166M||$4.75M||$0||No||0%||Oct. 12, 2014|
|P.K. Subban||MTL||$9M||$8M||$6M||Yes||75%||Aug. 2, 2014|
|Jeff Petry||MTL||$5.5M||$4M||$1M||Yes||25%||June 2, 2015|
|Brendan Gallagher||MTL||$3.75M||$2.75M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||Nov. 29, 2014|
|Cory Schneider||NJD||$6M||$6M||$0||No||0%||July 9, 2014|
|Travis Zajac||NJD||$5.75M||$5.75M||$0||No||0%||Jan. 16, 2013|
|Adam Larsson||NJD||$4.166M||$5.1M||$0||No||0%||July 25, 2015|
|Shea Weber||NSH||$7.856M||$6M||$0||No||0%||July 19, 2012|
|Johnny Boychuk||NYI||$6M||$4M||$2.75M||Yes||69%||March 13, 2015|
|Nick Leddy||NYI||$5.5M||$6.5M||$0||No||0%||Feb. 24, 2015|
|Henrik Lundqvist||NYR||$8.5M||$5.5M||$1M||Yes||18%||Dec. 4, 2013|
|Derek Stepan||NYR||$6.5M||$5M||$3M||Yes||60%||July 27, 2015|
|Marc Staal||NYR||$5.7M||$4.2M||$3M||Yes||71%||Jan. 18, 2015|
|Bobby Ryan||OTT||$7.25M||$7.5M||$0||No||0%||Oct. 2, 2014|
|Claude Giroux||PHI||$8.275M||$7.2M||$0||No||0%||July 4, 2013|
|Evgeni Malkin||PIT||$9.5M||$9.5M||$5M||Yes||53%||June 13, 2013|
|Phil Kessel||PIT||$8M||$6M||$5M||Yes||83%||Oct. 1, 2013|
|Sidney Crosby||PIT||$8.7M||$9.6M||$0||No||0%||June 28, 2012|
|Kris Letang||PIT||$7.25M||$7.25M||$0||No||0%||July 2, 2013|
|Vladimir Tarasenko||STL||$7.5M||$5.5M||$0||Salary Dip||0%||July 7, 2015|
|Dion Phaneuf||TOR||$7M||$5.5M||$2.5M||Yes||45%||Dec. 31, 2013|
|Alex Ovechkin||WSH||$9.538M||$10M||$0||No||0%||Jan. 10, 2008|
|Matt Niskanen||WSH||$5.75M||$5.75M||$0||No||0%||July 1, 2014|
BOLD - indicates deal signed prior to 2012-13 lockout, before either negotiating side would have been aware of 2020 dates, thus not included in the totals.