Sunday, January 06, 2013

Lockout over, details to be finalized

Finally, early in the morning of Day 113 of the third lockout of Gary Bettman's tenure at Commissioner of the National Hockey League, there is labor accord.

According to the NHL's website:

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association reached agreement on the framework of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement early Sunday morning.
After a marathon 16-plus hour negotiating session at the Sofitel Hotel that began Saturday afternoon, the sides announced an agreement in principle shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday.

The League did not announce the start date of the season or the number of games each team will play. Those details will be announced soon.
The deal, agreed to at approximately 4:40 a.m., was announced jointly by NHL Commissioner Gary 

Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr in the same hotel conference room where the negotiations were conducted with the assistance of Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

"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 said. "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. We have to go through a ratification process and the Board of Governors has to approve it from the League side and, obviously, the players have to approve it as well. We are not in a position to give you information right now about schedule, when we are starting. It's early in the morning and we have been at this all day and all night, obviously. But, we will be back to you very shortly, hopefully, later today with more information in that regard."

Fehr, meanwhile expressed an eagerness for his constituency to get back to playing hockey after a negotiation that stretched across 113 days.

"Any process like this in the system we have is difficult; it can be long," Fehr said. "I've said repeatedly throughout this process, somebody would say, 'What do you see ahead?' And, the answer was, 'You get up tomorrow and you try to find a way to do it and you keep doing that until you find a way to succeed.

"As Gary just indicated, we have the framework of a deal. We have to do the legal work and we have to do the constituent-communication work. At least, from my [standpoint], and I'm sure Gary's too, we need to let them know the details before we tell all of you. Having said that, hopefully, we're at a place where all those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch and we'll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can."

Beckenbaugh, who took part in these negotiations at three different junctures of the overall process, worked with both sides from this past Wednesday until the deal was finalized Sunday morning. Commissioner Bettman praised the work of Beckenbaugh and thanked the mediator for the role he played in the potential settlement.

"I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services, made in providing herculean assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations," FMCS Director George Cohen said as part of a statement.

The new CBA, which still must be drafted and formerly approved by both parties, would replace the agreement that expired Sept. 15.

Something important to consider while the new CBA is being finalized, is that both the Board of Governors and the Players' Union must ratify the deal before any hockey can be played. There is still no indication that this is a fait accompli where the framework of the deal is concerned.

The schedule matrix has yet to be figured out, and speculation has arisen that there will be either a 48-or-50 game slate. There is also no word on when the season will officially begin, but previous reports had it commencing some time around January 19.

Also in the works is figuring out when a trade deadline can be arranged.

Among the new features of this Collective Bargaining Agreement:

  • A 10-year term which includes a mutual opt-out clause after year eight.
    • The expired CBA had a term of eight years, with an opt-out clause for both sides after seven years.
  • The salary cap ceiling in Year One will be $60 million, however, teams will not penalized for spending to the previously set $70.2 million cap.
  • The salary cap ceiling in Year Two will be $64.3 million.
    • This is the same cap ceiling as this past season (2011-2012).
  • There is a 50-50 split of all Hockey Related Revenue
    • The expired CBA had a 57-43 percent split in favor of the players. The NHL’s initial proposal this summer asked for 57 percent in favor of the owners.
  • Contract terms are limited to seven years, or eight years for teams re-signing their own players.
    • The expired CBA had no limit on contract term.
  • Year-to-year contract variance is set at 35 percent with no year’s salary being less than 50 percent of the highest yearly salary.
    • The expired CBA had a provision where salary could not vary by more than 50 percent of the lower salary during the first two years of the contract.
  • There are two compliance buyouts which can be used to buy out a player from his contract without any cap ramifications.
    • The expired CBA had a six day period during which clubs could exercise their compliance buyouts.
  • There were concessions made by the NHL on the players' pension funds as well. Not all of the details have emerged, but this is believed to have been on of the player’s biggest sticking points. The NHL did agree to share limited liability.

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