Who gets what: Key points of the NHL's new CBA deal
NEW YORK -- After 112 days, and then more than 16 hours of negotiations with a federal mediator that bled from Saturday into Sunday, the NHL and its players ended the lockout and finalized a collective bargaining agreement, salvaging a shortened season from the wreckage of a long and tumultuous battle. Shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday morning, word began to trickle out of an expansive and ornate hotel conference room in Midtown Manhattan: the NHL was coming back. In the end, mediator Scot Beckenbaugh is the only party involved who comes out smelling like a rose, as he helped the two sides finally come to a resolution. Hockey fans around the world will praise his name for years to come.
Going into Saturday's meetings, a number of contentious issues continued to stymie a deal: a pension plan for the players, the salary cap for the 2013-14 season, the length of the CBA and individual contract term length and structure.
Pending ratification by the union's membership and the NHL Board of Governors, which is expected to happen in the coming days, here's who came away with what on the biggest issues:
• CBA terms: The newest agreement is a 10-year deal, but it gives either party a chance to opt out of the contract after Year 8. That means that the NHL will have labor peace until at least 2020. The players wanted a shorter term, but both sides can comprehend the need for long-term stability. For a league that has suspended play three times in the last 18 years because labor disputes, that kind of détente is a necessity.
• Individual player contract terms: After teams discovered a legal loophole in the last CBA that allowed them to subtly (or in some cases no-so-subtly) manipulate their salary cap, the NHL saw a need to put a limit on years and pay structure for player contracts. In the last CBA, there were no such limits. Now, teams can sign new players to a maximum seven years; re-sign their own players (those who played the full previous season) to a maximum eight-year deal. Last month, the league had reportedly initially proposed to limit term length to five years for free agents; and seven for re-signees, but were talked into a longer period. To stop the practice of outlandish front-loaded contracts, which had been designed to artificially lower a player's cap hit, there is now a variance rule. Year-to-year, a player's salary may not increase or decrease by more than 35 percent, and his salary may not dip below 50 percent of its highest value. Example: if a player makes $10 million in his first year, he can make no less than $6.5 million in Year 2, and at no point during the term of his contract is he allowed to make less than $5 million. Again, the league had ideally wanted stricter variance rules, but settled for 35 percent year-to-year and 50 percent over the term of the contract.
• The 2013-14 salary cap: For the first full season under the new CBA, the cap for each team will be $64.3 million, what it was for the 2011-12 season. (The 2012-13 cap will be prorated off of the established $70.2 million for this season.) In the most simple of terms, it means that the absolute dollars for the players will not decline. The league had wanted to lower the cap to $60 million; the players had wanted to keep it at the planned $70 million. In the end, they met somewhere in the middle, but given the 24 percent salary rollback the players accepted in 2004-05, this is a victory for the union, which from the start had adamantly refused a pay cut in any way. The 2013-14 cap is, however, just a reset point, and future figures will be determined by revenues. It had previously been agreed upon that the owners and players would split hockey related revenue 50-50, with players also receiving $300 million in "make whole" repayments to honor existing contracts, which would not count against the players' share. Furthermore, each team will be allowed two compliance buyouts in order to help ease some of the burdens of regrettable contracts under the $64.3 million cap. The floor is reportedly set at $44 million.
• Player pensions. The league agreed to a defined-benefits pension plan for the players.
• Other non-financial issues: Some of the most compelling issues for fans, however, were not discussed or written into the CBA, most notably continued Olympic participation and conference realignment. The NHL and the NHLPA will need to engage in talks with the IIHF and IOC before coming to an agreement on the league's potential participation at the Sochi Games and beyond. It wasn't written into the CBA because there is some time to work on this matter, unlike in 2005 when the '06 Games in Turin were only months away. The expectation is that NHLers will play at Sochi, but if this whole process has taught us anything, nothing is set until it's set. Realignment will be addressed at a later date.