The puck is on the goal line. Now the NHL and NHLPA just need to poke it home.
After a marathon week of bargaining, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are closing in on a tentative memorandum of understanding on an all-encompassing new six-year Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as all of the necessary Return to Play components to drop the puck on a 24-team play-in.
The MOU would need to be ratified by both the NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s full membership. A player vote could begin electronically as soon as Monday if an agreement is announced on Saturday; players will have 72 hours to vote.
There are more i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed. But the deal is believed to be imminent and multiple stakeholders in the NHL community have now been apprised of the details.
Here is a rundown of the pertinent particulars:
> Critical Dates: Training camps are scheduled to open on July 13, with teams slated to arrive in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton by July 26, with games scheduled for Aug. 1. Absent of a COVID-19 outbreak that shuts down play, the Stanley Cup would be on track to be awarded in the first week of October.
The Alexis Lafreniere Draft Lottery sweepstakes will be held on Aug. 10, with the NHL Draft to follow in mid-October. Free agency would take place in the fall for the first time in league history on Nov. 1.
> Opt-out: Any player can opt-out of Return to Play this summer for any reason and there is no penalty or discipline for doing so. There was originally talk that a player opting out for anything other than an underlying medical condition would not be eligible for a playoff share and would not receive the final quarterly pension credit for the season.
> Playoff share: The playoff bonus pool is doubling this season from $16 million to $32 million. A player on a team that loses in the best-of-five qualifying round will receive $20,000. Players in each round will see bonuses increase from there, with a share from the Stanley Cup winning team worth $240,000 per player.
> Term: The new CBA will have a term of six years, ensuring labour peace through at least 2025-26. It can also be extended one year if the escrow debt from 2019-20 owing to owners exceeds $125 million at the end of the deal.
> Salary cap: The salary cap’s upper limit will be frozen for 2020-21 at $81.5 million and remain there until hockey-related revenue returns to $4.8 billion - the amount projected for this 2019-20 season before the pandemic hit.
Once HRR rebounds to $4.8 billion, the upper limit will be calculated using a new formula that relies on the actual HRR from two seasons ago, plus the projected HRR from the immediately prior season.
> Olympic participation: As reported, NHL players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2026 Milan Olympics, pending negotiation with the IIHF and IOC.
> No signing bonus limits: There will be no changes to the signing bonus system in the new CBA. During negotiations, the NHL was believed to have sought to limit signing bonuses to a maximum of 50 per cent of the total contract compensation.
> Final paycheque: The players’ final paycheque from the 2019-20 regular season season, which had been deferred until this point, will go to repaying their debt to owners. That totalled roughly $140 million USD.
> Escrow cap: While they work to repay their debt to owners, players cannot pay a higher escrow percentage than:
2020-21: 20 per cent
2021-22: 14-18 per cent (TBD)
2022-23: 10 per cent
2023-24: 6 per cent
2024-25: 6 per cent
2025-26: 6 per cent
> Salary deferral: Players will defer 10 per cent of both salary and signing bonus for the 2020-21 season, which will be paid back to players in three equal instalments in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.
> No-trade/no-move clauses: All no-trade and no-move clauses will travel with the player in a trade, even if the player is traded before the clause kicks in.
Example: The Montreal Canadiens traded defenceman P.K. Subban days before his no-move clause kicked in. The Nashville Predators, the team that acquired Subban, subsequently voided Subban’s no-move clause, then making him susceptible later to a trade to New Jersey.
> Outlawing front loaded deals: For high-value, front loaded long-term deals (at least 6 years, worth at least 7.5 per cent of cap), salary variability from the highest year to the lowest year will go from 50 per cent down to 35 per cent.
> Minimum salary: The NHL minimum salary is increasing from $700,000 this season to $750,000 next season. The new league minimum salary is:
> Post-career health care subsidy: Players also received a $3,500 to $5,000 retirement health care subsidy.
> Rehab choice: Players will now be able to rehab long-term injuries in a place or city of choice unless their team can prove that rehab will not be possible there.
> No European Waivers: We should call this the Ryan O’Reilly Rule. Players who play in Europe will no longer require waivers to come back to the NHL, provided they sign their NHL contract by Dec. 15. Previously, if a player played in Europe after the start of the regular season, waivers were required. The Flames signed O’Reilly to an offer sheet in 2013 during the lockout while he was holding out from Colorado in the KHL; if the Avalanche had not matched, he would have been subjected to waivers and the Flames likely would have lost him.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli