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NHL, Players Union Come to Agreement to End Lockout

Zdeno Chara, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

It took 119 long, excruciating days, but NHL games are finally in sight. The NHL and NHLPA came to a tentative agreement after a 16-hour marathon negotiating session in New York ended around 5 a.m.

That means all the talk about escrow and disclaimers of interest will soon turn into talk about forechecking and line brawls. Bruins fans will be hearing a lot less from Donald Fehr and a lot more from Rene Rancourt and Jack Edwards.

The season is likely to begin in a couple weeks although the exact date is not known, while training camp will begin at the end of this week.

A few of the major points from the new collective bargaining agreement.

  • The CBA will be ten years with both sides having the option to opt-out after eight years. So mark your calendars for October 2021 for the next NHL lockout.
  • Going forward, the contract limit will be seven years (eight if you sign your own players). This is a major concession for the owners after NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declared two weeks ago that five years will be the “the hill we will die on.” Implementing contract limits is a big win for the league however, so they can avoid cap circumventing contracts such as the ones of Ilya Kovalchuk, Shea Weber and many more.
  • The league implemented variance to also avoid those cap-circumventing contracts. No salary can vary more than 35 percent than it had in the previous year and it can’t vary 50 percent from the highest salaried year. So kiss those days of players earning less than a million dollars at the end of a contract to lower their team’s cap hit, good-bye.
  • Another concession from the owners will be this year’s salary cap. The last proposal from the owners had the cap at $60 million, that number will move up to $64.3 million. The number is similar to last year’s cap number of $64 million.

Overall, it is a pretty good deal for the players after they were clearly outmatched during the 2004-05 lockout. If you look at the demands from the league’s original offer last summer and what the final deal ended up being, you can see the difference between having someone like Fehr who has negotiated big CBA’s before as opposed to Bob Goodenow in 2004-05.

Most importantly, is that the Fehr, Gary Bettman and the owners realized they couldn’t cancel a full season again. They have gained momentum, especially in Boston, after the last few years and a full season cancellation would put them right back to where they were eight years ago. They may not get all the fans they lost back, but the diehard and I believe most of the casual fans still remain. The league will be coming back right as the NFL begins to enter their off-season. All of those fans will looking for something to watch and with a compressed schedule and NHL games on television every night, those fans will remember just how awesome hockey really is.

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