January 6, 2013

NHL, Players Association Reach Agreement to End Lockout

Early Sunday morning, the NHL and the NHLPA came to an agreement on a new, 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement that will see an end to the 113 day standoff between the two sides.

Despite the good feeling everyone is having now that the season will be starting, you can't help but think about how completely unnecessary this whole thing was. I get the idea of a labor disagreement. I get that both sides thought they got a raw deal the last time we did this dance. But there are some relationships that have to be repaired once again and the league has to prove why it is worth a shot to those who scoff at it.

Be that as it may, the agreement is reached and we can go back to discussing something important now. We haven't written in this space in a while because, quite frankly it was not worth it to write about the countless proposals exchanged by the two sides. The only thing deemed worthy to write about was the final deal. So, here we are.

Once the i's are dotted and the t's crossed, both sides can go forward with ratifying the agreement, which has opt-out clauses after year eight. Both sides will have this option.

Aside from the big issues of the 50-50 split of revenues and new pension plans, there are going to be some new, unique wrinkles in the latest CBA.

For instance, a new salary cap figure of $64.3 million will be implemented for the 2013-2014 season, which is down from the $70.2 million pro-rated figure this season. In order to comply with this, teams will be given two amnesty buy-outs they can use as they see fit after this season and next season. These buy-outs will NOT count against a team's salary cap. However, teams will have to comply, once again with a cap floor, currently slated to be $44 million in 13-14. For those envisioning scenarios where the Islanders use an amnesty on Rick DiPietro, keep that number in the back of your minds.

One item Sean and I have hemmed and hawed about incessantly is a limit on contract terms and we'll get our wish. Teams can sign unrestricted free agents for no longer than seven years. Any team re-signing their own player can come to terms on an eight year contract. This eliminates the unnecessarily long contracts.

The draft lottery has also been revamped. Gone are the silly days of only the top-5 teams having a shot at the first overall pick. Now, all 14 teams who fail to qualify for the playoffs will have a shot at getting the top spot in the draft, with appropriate odds. This is the same system the NBA has been using, which has generated some solid results when it comes to re-shuffling and making things interesting.

There will be more money to spread around in the form of revenue sharing, with $200 million available to help out some smaller-market teams. This was originally a bigger issue early on in the CBA negotiations, but seemed to have been put on the back burner for the make-whole concept and how to define hockey related revenue and how that money would be split up. It remains to be seen if this will have any positive impact on struggling franchises, but at first glance it doesn't look like it's much of a deal for the little guys.

Of course, there still needs to be some kinks worked out, such as the schedule - when we start, end, how many games (48 is likely) and of course when the trade deadline is. We'll learn of these items in the coming days, as it is estimated it will take 2-3 days to complete the rest of this process.

So, everyone breathe: we made it. We survived the lockout. How the fans respond is any ones guess, but as I said earlier the league and players will need to reach out. It's easy for one to say people have to understand the business side. But the average fan doesn't care about the business side. Meanwhile, it's this business side, and subsequent greed from both the league and the players, that keeps creating these rifts that drive people away. The other three major sports have this process figured out. It's time for the NHL to jump on board and prevent this from happening. I'm skeptical, but I guess we'll see in another eight or so years.

Keep tuned here as we'll have some more content in the coming days. Plan for the NYI FYI radio show to return on Sunday, January 13th at 11 AM. We'll provide links and such during the week as well.

Get pumped, everyone and welcome back!


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