Following a marathon 16-hour negotiation on the 113th day of the lockout, the NHL owners and the players association have finally struck a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.
This came as a surprise to many since both sides appeared to be very far apart on some key issues. But around 5am Sunday morning, a deal was tentatively announced.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and union rep Donald Fehr held a joint press conference to make the announcement.
“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.”
There is still a lot of work be done be done, but hockey fans can rest easy knowing that there will be a season of either 48 or 50 games, with a start date yet to be determined.
“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.”
According to sources the agreement includes the following elements:
- The hockey-related revenue will be split 50/50 between owners and players, down from the 57/43 split the players enjoyed after the previous lockout in 2004-05.
- The cap for the second year (2013-14 season) of the deal is set to be $64.3 million, which was the upper level of the cap for the 2011-12 season. The cap floor remains at $44 million.
- The cap for the first year is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million (all figures pro-rated) with a cap floor of $44 million.
- Each team will be allowed two amnesty buyouts at the end of the first and second season that can terminate a player’s contract. That figure will count against the player’s share of revenue but not the team’s individual cap.
- The agreement is for 10 years but has an opt-out cause after eight.
- A player’s contract terms are a maximum of seven years for free agents and eight years if they are retaining an existing player.
- The salary variance for players from year to year cannot exceed 35%, while the final year of a contract cannot exceed 50% of the highest individual year.
- Teams can walk away from a salary arbitration if the awarded figure is over $3.5 million per annum.
This is a very promising step for the league, who up until the day the deal was struck saw mediator Scot Beckenbaugh shuttling between rooms looking for common ground and trying to resolve issues.
Neither side appeared to be willing to give in on what they felt was a fair deal, and another lost season seemed more and more likely each day that passed without progress.
Both the NHL and and the NHLPA seemed to cooperate on certain issues that they previously were not keen on including in the new agreement. And as any good and fair negotiation goes, each side needs to give a little to get a little.
The previous CBA expired on September 15th and neither side seemed ready to budge until what appeared to be a last minute, last ditch effort to salvage a season.
The NHL’s first offer made to the players in July had what some considered to be a low-ball offer with the players’ revenue share dropping from 57% to 43%, which didn’t sit well with the NHLPA.
The league made another proposal in October bumping up the split to 50/50, which turned out to be the framework for getting a deal reached, although it still took months to agree on other key issues such as free agency, pensions, buyouts and salary terms.
The season can start as early as January 15th since all games through the 14th were already officially cancelled. Most likely there will be a 48-game season beginning on January 19th.
The lockout cost the league 510 regular season games, as well as the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and the All-Star Game in Columbus, which surely had a significant financial impact to the league as well as the players.
Many steps were made that will improve the league drastically. No longer can teams sign players to massive front-loaded contracts like what Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the Devils before the beginning of last season.
Teams can also make up for the mistakes they made signing players who didn’t live up to the expectations in the form of unpenalized buyouts and not have it hurt the team’s ability to spend money down the road.
It also solves the problem where one side was getting a bigger share of revenue than the other. That added parity will hopefully bring a happier union between the two sides for the following 10 years, when hopefully another lockout will not be needed after the current deal expires.
For the sake of the NHL, hopefully they haven’t waited too long and lost the momentum that they gained throughout the course of the previous CBA, which saw the league reach record levels of revenue and an increased fan base.