NHL, NHLPA reach an agreement as lockout ends

NHL, NHLPA reach an agreement as lockout ends
January 6, 2013, 7:15 am
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The deal still requires ratification from both sides, but that's expected to be a formality. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

And on the 113th day, they came to an agreement.

Late into the night and then the early morning hours on Sunday in New York, the NHL and NHLPA agreed on the framework for a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement (with an opt-out clause after eight years), according to multiple reports. A shortened season will begin later this month. The NHL’s lengthy labor battle began on Sep. 15 and threatened to erase a second full season in the last nine years, before a marathon negotiation session began on Saturday morning and ended 16 hours later. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Donald Fehr held a joint press conference around 6 a.m. EST.

Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh assisted representatives from the league and the players’ association, just days before the league said it would cancel the season on Jan. 11. The deal still requires ratification from both sides, but that's expected to be a formality.

“We have to go through a ratification process. The Board of Governors has to approve it from the league side, obviously the players have to approve it as well,” Bettman told a group of reporters that waited overnight in New York.

Other details have also emerged (via ProHockeyTalk.com):

- The salary cap for the 2013-14 season will be $64.3 million, the same figure from 2011-12. The salary floor will be $44 million.

- Contract term limits will be seven years maximum, or eight for re-signing your own player. To avoid back-diving contracts, the salary variance year-to-year will be capped at 35 percent, and the final year cannot be more than 50 percent of the highest year.

- All non-playoff teams will have a shot at the top pick in the draft, and an NBA-style lottery will be implemented

- Revenue sharing has been increased to $200 million

- Teams will be allowed two compliance buyouts over the next two seasons

- The beginning of free agency remains July 1, although that will likely be pushed back this summer

For the Sharks, several players that have already returned, or never left the Bay Area will be able to use their locker room and workout facility again at Sharks Ice. Among the players who skated on Friday there on rented ice were Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, Brad Stuart, Antti Niemi, Brent Burns, Marty Havlat and Patrick Marleau.

The Sharks could be in good shape for a shortened season, too, as 11 players on the roster spent at least some time playing competitively overseas. That doesn’t include Ryane Clowe, who has been practicing with the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, or James Sheppard, who could secure a roster spot and has been playing for the club’s AHL affiliate in Worcester.

At the same time, there are injury questions on the blue line. Jason Demers has a broken wrist that his agent says could keep him out until early February, although a Sharks source told CSNCalifornia.com that Demers won’t be out nearly that long. Brent Burns has only recently started skating after having offseason sports hernia/groin surgery in late May, while Justin Braun suffered a hand injury playing in Finland but should be “ready to play,” according to his agent.

Along with Sheppard, the Sharks could bring to camp defenseman Matt Irwin from Worcester, as Irwin is thought to be the most NHL-ready blueliner the team has in its system. Defenseman Matt Tennyson is also a candidate, as is forward John McCarthy. Tim Kennedy, Worcester's leading scorer, recently suffered an injury and it doesn't appear he will be available in the immediate future.

According to ESPN.com a potential 50-game season would start Jan. 15, while a 48-game season would begin on Jan. 19, depending on how quickly the deal can be finalized. It's thought that any schedule will feature games against conference opponents only. The Sharks were to visit the Dallas Stars on Jan. 19 and that game will likely remain, possibly as the first of the season.

Training camps will almost certainly begin by the end of the week, at the latest.

“Hopefully we’re at a place where those things will proceed fairly rapidly and with some dispatch, and we’ll get back to what we used to call business as usual just as fast as we can,” Fehr said.