The NHL and NHLPA have finally come to their senses and ended the lockout in time to save a
2012/2013 NHL season.
While you will see a great deal of content all over the interwebs (and some of it likely may appear here at Copper and Blue) that talks about the stupidity of this process and the hurt feelings of all parties involved, including the fans, for now, let's focus on what the actual agreement consists of and how it will affect the upcoming abbreviated season.
Listed below are the clauses that have been reported thus far and my take on some of the major ones. We will update this page as additional information continues to break in the coming hours/days:
1 - 50/50% split in HRR - I think everyone knew this was coming, but this is a major win for owners. This is going to result in a definite slowing of the speed at which the salary cap has been climbing, and will result in a one-time drop in the cap at the beginning of the 2013/14 season.
2 - Year 2 Salary cap of $64.3 Million - This was the last outstanding issue according to Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun from TSN. The league had hoped to bring this number lower, but the players were able to ensure that the cap number does not fall below the amount it was during the last full season in 2011/12. This is going to make for a WILD summer this off-season as teams need to adapt to cap number that will be almost $6 Million lower than they will be able to spend this season. (This year, as part of the transition to 50/50, teams will be able to spend up to $70.2 Million) The cap floor will remain at $44 Million that season. MAJOR UPDATE: News has come out that beginning in year three of the CBA, the salary cap range will now be calculated based on +/- 15% of the midpoint of the cap. This is a significant change from the previous range where the floor and ceiling were calculated as $8M above or below the mid-point each season. The big change here is that as revenues grow and the cap rises, the gap between the salary cap floor and ceiling will begin to expand. That is a major development. Another wrinkle here is that the salary cap ceiling is protected from falling below the magic number of $64.3M at any point in the CBA. Should league revenues fall or stagnate for a prolonged period as a result of fan and sponsor backlash from the lockout, the cap ceiling will stay above the level it was in 2011/12. Finally, teams will no longer be able to use potential performance bonuses to reach the salary cap floor, they must get there with actual salary dollars, which will force teams operating on a budget to spend additional money to reach the minimum salary threshold. I'm sure teams like Phoenix are thrilled with that.
3 - 10 Year CBA, with mutual opt-out clauses after 8 years - I think this is something that most fans can be pleased about as it will be at least 8 years before there is even a chance for something silly like this from happening again. Tyler Dellow (@mc79hockey) mentioned on twitter last night that he thought the 10 year CBA would be good for owners. While I have incredible respect for Tyler's intelligence in the business of hockey, I personally see this as a better scenario for the players. Given the tendency for these negotiations to result in player concessions, and that GM's will find ways to circumvent the cap in order to serve their team's competitiveness, I feel like the longer this CBA goes, the better it will be for players, as the owners are likely to just want more concessions next time around. UPDATE: NHL will receive the first opportunity to opt-out on Sept. 1, 2019, if they do not exercise that option, the PA will be able to do so on Sept. 15, 2019
4 - Term Limit on Contracts (7 years for all players, however, an 8th year can be offered to players' re-signing with the team with whom they played their last full season) - I think this is pretty self-explanatory. Obviously the league wanted to stop those absurd Ilya Kovalchuck deals where the deal includes years on the back end that are likely never going to be played by the player. It is well publicized the league wanted 5 years, and while any limit is a concession for the players, they were able to push this to 7/8 years, which is a better than the scenario they were facing had the league gotten their way completely.
5 - Contract Variance Limit of 35% per year, 50% total cap variance range - Related to the last point, there will now be a limit on the amount of variance a contract can have from season to season. While that alone will slow the decrease in compensation for those cap circumvention deals, the 2nd part of this rule will pretty much end them for good. All contract must maintain no more than 50% total variance between the highest single year of annual salary and the lowest.
6 - Two compliance buy-outs per team during the off-season prior to the 2013/14 season - Obviously Oiler fans will instantly think of Shawn Horcoff when they see this, and that is certainly a possibility, but any buyout will not take place until after this season is over. Players like Rick Dipietro, Ville Leino, Wade Redden, Scott Gomez etc. will likely be searching for new homes next summer, which will even further contribute to the madness that will take place this coming July. UPDATE: The previous information is still accurate, however it now appears that teams will be able to execute these two buyouts in either the summer of 2013 or 2014 (or some combination of the two).
7 - Free Agency continues to begin on July 1st - There was talk of moving this until closer to the middle of July, but that will not happen. This coming summer is likely to be the exception to this rule as the late start to the season will likely push all of the off-season dates slightly in order to accommodate the end of the playoffs.
8 - Draft Lottery now allows for all 14 teams to receive the 1st overall pick - The weighting system will be announced at a later date, however the headline is that all 14 non-playof teams will now have a chance to win the lottery and pick #1 overall. Basically, that means that Edmonton hit precisely the right time to get their 3 consecutive #1 overall picks, as they would have a much tougher time accomplishing that task going forward. Hopefully they won't even find themselves in that conversation.
9 - $300 Million in "Make-Whole" Money to Players - This is intended to compensate for the reductions in player contracts as a result of escrow deductions related to 50/50 HRR distribution. UPDATE: According to Bob McKenzie from TSN, This money will be paid in 3 installments of $100 Million. One in each of years 2, 3 and 4 of the CBA.
10 - Creation of a Defined Benefit Pension Program for players - The details of this are still somewhat unclear, though a player from the negotiating committee stated on TSN this morning that the pension plan was the one "win" for players in this negotiation, considering they gave back in virtually all other areas. Based on that, it sounds as if the new arrangement will be an improvement for the players as compared to the previous CBA.
11 - Supplemental Discipline - The new wrinkle here is that they have added a third party hear appeals on suspensions longer than six games. The initial fines and suspensions will still come via the "Shanaban" videos, and appeals will be heard by Gary Bettman, but for suspensions of 6+ games, players can have a neutral party hear their case. The downside I see here is that Bettman's ego may force him to not want his rulings overturned by an outside party and therefore I see a lot of suspensions at six games or less coming in the future, which is going the wrong way. Suspensions need to get longer. I could be wrong, but its a pretty easy result to foresee.
12 - Retention of Salary in Trades - Details are still pretty sketchy here, but this is a big one. Teams will be able to retain up to $5 Million total in salary during trades and apply that to their cap rather than seeing the full amount transferred to a player's new team. UPDATE: Previous information here appears to have been inaccurate. Numerous sources now indicating (teams have been informed of the CBA details, so leaks are becoming more frequent) that teams will be able to retain up to 50% of a contract's salary in a trade and can do so for up to a maximum of three contracts per team. The total amount of cap retained through trades cannot exceed 15% of the salary cap ceiling.
13 - Cap Hit of Players in the AHL or Europe WILL Count Against the Cap - People are already calling this the "Wade Redden Rule". Teams will no longer be able to bury contracts in the AHL or European leagues to escape a bad contract decision. The details are that any one-way contract that exceeds a number calculated by the following formula: "NHL's minimum salary + $375,000" will be counted against the team's salary cap whether that player plays in the NHL or elsewhere.
14 - Changes to Salary Arbitration Rules - Teams can no longer walk away from a contract award that is below an annual salary of $3.5M. Additionally, there appears to be a restriction regarding teams' ability to buy out players making less than $2.75M, however it is only applicable to certain situations, and I'm still not entirely clear on the details. The biggest news here is that teams will no longer be able to protect themselves from having their RFA's receive offer sheets from other teams by having the club file for arbitration. Should the club elect to take the player to arbitration, that player will still be able to sign an offer sheet during the waiting period for the arbitration hearing.
15 - Increase in Upper Limit of the Salary Cap Post Trade Deadline - According to former Lightning GM Brian Lawton, teams will be able to increase their spending up to 10% above the upper limit of the salary cap range in order to stock up for a playoff run. Any amount spent above the cap will be carried over and applied to the following season's cap number, just as some player bonus' have done in the past.
16 - "Cap Benefit Re-Capture" Provision - This one is a little complicated to explain, but Elliotte Friedman has done an excellent job of doing so here. The basic premise is that if a player who has signed a long-term "Cap circumvention" contract retires before his deal expires, any team that has employed him over the course of that deal will receive a cap penalty calculated using a formula that includes the number of years the player spent with a team and the number of years left on the contract at the time of his retirement.
Check back here for additional updates as more details become available and for additional analysis of the ramifications of the new CBA for both the league in general and the Oilers in particular in the days ahead.