With less than a week to go before the NHL's self-imposed deadline to save the season, the NHL owners and players union have agreed to the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement that, once finalized, will end the lockout. The deal was reached at approximately 4:40 this morning after a sixteen-plus-hour negotiating session. Said Gary Bettman, who announced the deal with Donald Fehr shortly after 6 a.m. today: "We have to dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon." In other words, hockey is just about back, folks.
So what's in this CBA? Some details, via ESPN:
• The salary cap this season will be $60, but "teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period." Teams will be allowed two contract buyouts to get them under the cap.
• In the second year of the CBA, the cap will be $64.3 million. (This had been one of the final obstacles to a deal in recent days.) The salary floor in both of those years will be $44 million.
• Contracts will be capped at seven years, or eight years for teams re-signing their own players. (Translation: Get ready for NHL sign-and-trades.)
• Year-to-year variance of contracts will be capped at 35 percent, and the last year of a deal can't vary more than 50 percent from the highest-salaried year. (This, of course, is designed to prevent teams from circumventing the salary cap by tacking on extra years with low salaries to the ends of contracts.)
• It's a ten-year agreement with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years, in case you're looking to put the next lockout on your calendar.
There's more, of course, but Olympic participation reportedly will not be part of the agreement. (If you're not up to speed, the NHL hasn't yet agreed to send its players to the Games in Sochi and beyond.) Again, via ESPN: The league and the players "will work on a side agreement regarding the Olympics and possibly the World Cup of Hockey."
The specifics of the coming season haven't yet been announced, but reports indicate that there will be either a 48-game or a 50-game schedule. Via CBC Sports:
The exact answer and details still have to be worked out. But it appears there are two possible opening nights for the NHL season at this point. The earliest would be a 50-game schedule beginning on Jan. 15. The latest would be a 48-game docket up-and-running on Jan. 19.
That means the earliest training camps could start would be on Wednesday. The latest would be on Saturday.
More details about the coming season will certainly emerge in the next couple of days, but in the meantime, get psyched, hockey fans. The mad, condensed 2013 season is about to begin.