If the NHL Lockout made you want to rip out your hair and yell at the top of your lungs you weren’t the only one. If the NHL Lockout made you question why you devote yourself to this beautiful game, you weren’t alone. Well everybody can rejoice as the NHL and NHLPA announced after a marathon 16 hour negotiating session that they had reached a tentative agreement. For the first time Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr stood side by side in a hotel lobby at 5 am on Sunday morning.
It took 113 days but the two sides were finally able to agree. To recap over the past month the sides came closer and closer but were never able to agree. They tried mediation and that didn’t work. They tried to player owner meetings which failed. The players gave Fehr the power to file a disclaimer of interest which basically would decertify the union quicker.
After all was said and done, the two sides resumed mediation earlier this week. Most of the credit for the deal will have to go federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh. Beckenbaugh got in his own workout when he went back and forth between NHL offices and the players hotel on Thursday and Friday to try to bridge the gap. Without the efforts of Beckenbaugh there may have never been a meeting on Saturday nevertheless a new CBA deal.
It goes without saying that the process is not done yet. This is a tentative deal that needs to be ratified by the players and the owners. The players are expected to start voting on it immediately while the time and date for the owners has not been determined yet.
While we wait for the deal to be ratified we can take a look at the details of the tentative deal.
Contract Term Limits: 7 years unless player resigns with his own team which can be for 8 years.
Weeks ago when the talks blew up the NHL referred to a five year contract limit as the hill that they died on. Apparently that was a lie since teams will be able to sign free agents for up to 7 years. The players will be happy as they can sign up for longer contracts in free agency. But no longer will we see a 14 year deal for free agents.
CBA contract: 10 years with an opt-out at 8 years.
This is great for the fans because they won’t have to hear the sniping for another 8 years at minimum. The NHL does not have a good reputation for having labor peace so to have that headache gone for the rest of this decade is a major plus. Hopefully the next decade will allow for plenty of time to mend the wounds from this prolonged labor battle.
Salary Cap: $70.2 Million in Year 1 and $64.3 Million in Year 2 and teams have 2 compliance buyouts that they must use before the 2013-2014 season along with no more than 35 percent variance in contracts.
This was a huge battle between the players and owners that contributed to the last month of angst. For the longest time the NHL insisted on $60 million while the players wanted $70 million. In order to prevent a flurry of mass buyouts the NHL agreed to the $70.2 million number weeks ago. From the sounds of the fantastic reports by various NHL reporters, the players held their ground on Year 2. The NHL wanted $60 million and the NHLPA wanted $65 million so that there wouldn’t be a gigantic drop. $64.3 million should look familiar as that was the cap last season. Initially the NHL wanted one buyout but two buyouts will make it much easier for teams to cut $6 million dollars to get under the cap. The salary variance is key as it will eliminate backdiving contracts that were commonly given out to players like Roberto Luongo and Marian Hossa.
There is still much to be decided depending on when the agreement is passed by both parties. All signs point to a 48 to 52 game season that will start between January 15 and January 19. Expect teams to play all games within their conference. Also do not expect Winnipeg to join the Western Conference this year as realignment was not in the agreement.
The only things that have been accomplished are that all of the hardworking men and women who cover the NHL beat should be applauded for their dedication to their jobs. For now celebrate that it appears that we are through the darkest day. It’s okay to be excited but you should be tentatively excited for now.