It is all but assured we will have hockey this summer, even as the coronavirus chases us back indoors. While the St. Louis Blues closed their practice facility on Friday because multiple players tested positive, once the players quarantine in their Toronto or Edmonton hub city, there shouldn’t be issues with the virus. The NHL CBA is almost complete and could be put to the players for a vote at any moment now.
Fears over bubble city details in Toronto or Edmonton were allayed on Friday when Toronto mayor John Tory praised the intricate details of the plan. In fact, we should be so lucky to have such a protected work environment.
The spirit of cooperation between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Donald Fehr, and their respective groups, was evident. The players will swallow a couple of bitter financial pills, but they were necessary. And, the owners rewarded the players with the Olympics and better contract rules.
This weekend, TSN reporter Frank Seravalli and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman took turns leaking the details of the new six-year CBA will is expected to be official at any moment. Then players will have 72 hours to ratify it.
First, because of the extra time needed to sort the financials and come to an agreement, Phase 3 training camps will begin on July 13, not July 10. The NHL will not sequester players for Phase 3 training camp. PHN considers this a mistake, but the players are sufficiently aware of the dangers and will hopefully quarantine strictly.
Teams will report to their hub city on July 26. Games will begin on August 1.
The second phase of the draft lottery as teams that lose the Qualifying Round is put into the lottery to be “Team A,” which won the first overall pick is tentatively scheduled for August 10.
The NHL Draft will occur in mid-October. The free-agent frenzy will occur on Nov. 1. Set your calendar now.
NHL CBA Player Movement Changes
No movement clauses or no-trade clauses will now travel with players, even if they agree to lift it once. The acquiring team was previously required to agree to keep the NMC or NTC, but now it’s automatic.
The controversial over-35 contract penalties are gone. Previously, when teams signed players over 35-years-old, the cap hit was guaranteed for the length of the contract, regardless if the player retired. This is the rule which made the contract the LA Kings dished to Ilya Kovalchuk so difficult to move. Now, that rule is gone. If a team signed a 36-year-old to a four-year deal, and the player retires in two years, the remaining two years will not count against the salary cap.
Teams can no longer attach conditional picks in trades based on a player re-signing. According to Friedman, agents and players felt that hurt players’ value. For example, New Jersey traded Taylor Hall to Arizona. As part of the deal, New Jersey received a third-round pick if Hall re-signed in Arizona. Those stipulations are now prohibited.
Salary Cap Freeze and Other $$$ Details
As a quick primer, as part of the existing NHL CBA revenue sharing, players and owners split hockey-related revenue (HRR) 50/50. The players are in a spot because the NHL will lose a significant amount of revenue in the 2019-2020 season, but the owners have mostly paid player salaries and operating expenses. Nor will the owners receive gate revenues for the playoffs. So, the players will spend a few years making up the losses to maintain the 50/50 share.
*Players can opt-out of the NHL return, for any reason without penalty and still be paid. That player will also receive his playoff-share payment. Players will receive $20,000 for the Qualifying Round, and it escalates from there. Stanley Cup winners will get $240,000 according to Seravalli.
*The owners doubled the playoff share for the 24-team NHL tournament this summer, from $16 million to $32 million.
*The salary cap is frozen at $81.5 million until hockey-related-revenues reach $4.8 billion, which was the projected amount this season. The cap will remain constant, but the way the cap is calculated will change.
Once hockey revenues reach $4.8 billion, the new salary cap will be based on actual revenues from two seasons prior, and the projection of revenue from the just-completed season. The cap will now be calculated on past numbers, with no more forward projections.
That’s going to hurt the players in the immediate, but it makes more sense and could eventually solve the escrow problem, and it seems the two-sides are planning on that.
*The new salary cap calculations lead to the BIG change: Next season, the players’ escrow will be 20%, to repay owners. The escrow will shrink to 14-18% in 2021-22, 10% in 2022-23, but then drop to only six-percent for the remaining three seasons.
That’s heavy for the next few years, but the players will be happier at the end of the CBA deal with a small escrow that they have a chance to recoup.
*The CBA term is six years, but it could become seven years if the players still owe the owners more than $125 million.
*The players will officially give-up their final paychecks from the 2019-20 season. The players deferred the payment until this matter was solved. That money will go towards making up the difference with the owners.
*The players will defer 10% of signing bonuses and salary in 2020-21, but that money will be repaid in three installments from 2023 through 2026.
*Teams will no longer be able to extremely front-load deals. Currently, the salary cannot drop more than 50% from the start to the end. In the new CBA, the difference is limited to 35%.
Odds and Ends Details
*Players can now rehab long-term injuries in the NHL city or a city of their choice.
*Players’ retirement health care stipends go up from $3500 per year to $5000.
*According to Seravalli, the European waiver rules will change. An NHL player in Europe or the KHL will no longer have to clear waivers to return to the NHL, provided the contract is signed by Dec. 15.
The rule appears to apply to NHL players whose rights are owned, not European free agents.
*NHL players will not only get to play in the 2022 Olympics but the 2026 games, as well. That deal is pending IOC approval, but that doesn’t sound like a sticking point.