Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Report: NHL, NHLPA closing on on new CBA

There are some certainties in life. Death. Taxes. And in the case of the National Hockey League, labour-related work stoppages on a regular basis. But somehow, in the middle of a pandemic, it appears that there may soon be a new collective bargaining agreement according to a report from ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski.

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From ESPN’s report:

The National Hockey League Players’ Association is expected to vote on both a new CBA and the return-to-play protocols that would restart the 2019-20 season this summer, and that would require a vote involving all its members. That hadn’t happened as of Friday night. Among the return-to-play issues were the approval of safety protocols and the two “hub” cities that will host 24 teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

According to ESPN’s sources, the new CBA would be “around six years” which would cover the period of 2020-21 through 2025-26. The current CBA expires after 2021-22, so this would “over-write” the two remaining seasons.

Under the new pact, the salary cap would stay at $81.5 million for the next two seasons and then increase to $82.5 million for 2022-23. Between the flat cap and the increased league revenues through Seattle’s expansion team beginning play in 2021-22 (and potentially the Islanders beginning to play in their new building as well) will help ease the escrow pressures that the NHLPA membership is bristling over.

One source on the players’ side said the salary cap might not be linked back to revenue until near the end of the CBA. There’s a theory that with the cap frozen and with additional revenue from the TV deal and the Seattle franchise, escrow could potentially dip into single digits for the players in a few years.

Another factor at play for the 2021-22 season, as first reported by Sportsnet, is a 10% salary deferral for the players.

The players would get paid back for their deferred salary further down the line. Currently, salaries league-wide are capped at 50% of hockey-related revenues. Uncoupling that linkage temporarily would ease financial tensions as the sports world deals with the ongoing pandemic.

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The NHL has had four work stoppages related to CBA negotiations over the last 30 years: a 1992 player strike (impacted games rescheduled), a 1994-95 lockout (season cut to 48 games), a 2004-05 lockout (canceled a season), and 2012-13 lockout (season cut to 48 games). This would be the first new CBA  negotiated without a stoppage in decades.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.