Report: NHL strikes deal
SEASON COULD BEGIN IN EARLY OCTOBER
By Helene Elliott
Los Angeles Times
The NHL and the players' association have agreed in principle on a
new collective bargaining agreement that will feature a hard salary
cap linked to 54 percent of league revenue, a 24 percent rollback of
existing contracts and qualifying offers, and a provision that will
limit the salary of any player to 20 percent of the team cap figure
in any year, sources said Wednesday.
If the deal is approved by both sides, the 2005-06 NHL season could
begin in early or mid-October.
The NHL, which became the first major pro sports league to lose an
entire season to a labor dispute, will become the last of the major
North American leagues to adopt salary controls.
Negotiators are estimating revenues will be $1.8 billion next season,
down from $2.1 billion in 2002-03. The salary cap will be $37 million
and won't include medical and dental benefits and pension payments.
The floor will be about $24 million.
Players rejected a proposed $42.5 million cap before Commissioner
Gary Bettman canceled the 2004-05 season.
The new labor agreement will allow players to represent their
homelands at the Turin Olympics in February, and the NHL will take an
18-day break to accommodate players' participation in the Olympics.
The All-Star Game will be dropped next season, mollifying owners who
opposed repeated interruptions to the season.
The agreement will be presented to the 10-member NHL executive
committee in New York on Monday, and the Board of Governors is
expected to rubber-stamp it late next week.
Players will debate and vote at a meeting that could be contentious;
if they approve, a 10-day period will begin for teams to sign players
they drafted in 2003 and other players on their reserve lists.
The collective bargaining agreement has no luxury tax but addresses
revenue sharing through a complex formula under which the top 10
revenue-earning teams will give a percentage of their revenue to
small-market teams at the conclusion of each season.
Salary arbitration will be conducted ``baseball style,'' with each
side presenting a figure and the arbitrator obligated to pick one
figure or the other. Provisions will allow teams to walk away from a
specified number of awards.
The minimum age to qualify for unrestricted free agency will be 31 in
the first year of the deal, 30 the following year and 28 for the
remaining four years. Also, earnings will be limited for entry-level
players. They will be subject to salary limits for their first four
seasons instead of three, as in the old agreement, and their maximum
earnings will be $850,000.
The largest unresolved issue, a source said, is the disposition of
contracts for the 2004-05 season. The NHLPA wants obligations for the
2004-05 season to be respected, and the NHL opposes that but might
yield, a source said.
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, OTTAWA SUN
The NHL Players' Association is fighting for one last concession as a
new collective bargaining agreement draws closer.
Multiple sources told the Sun yesterday that the players are making
another pitch to the NHL, asking it to honour contracts from the 2004-
05 season to keep the market from being flooded with free agents.
"My understanding is the players really want their contracts from
last year to move forward. They've given in on just about every other
issue and this is one they want to fight to the finish," said a
But other sources said there's no way NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
will give in to the request as it could cost owners millions in
Meanwhile, there was talk a tentative deal could be announced as
early as today, but the speculation now is it might be announced on
the weekend in the form of a simple press release.
Sources says the two sides won't hold a major press conference until
the deal is ratified by the NHLPA and the owners - something that
could take up to 10 days after the tentative deal is announced.
As discussions continued late last night between the NHL and NHLPA,
sources were speculating on what the new CBA might contain:
- There's talk there will be a maximum salary on each team which can
be no higher than 20% of what is expected to be a $37-million-$39-
million (all terms US) cap. For example, if the cap is $37 million,
then no player could earn more than $7.4 million in one season. "If
that's the case, this system might be completely idiot-proof for
general managers," said one league source.
- The sides have discussed the possibility of using baseball-type
arbitration. That means the owners submit a salary number and the
player goes through a similar process. The arbitrator has to decide
on one or the other. There could be major changes to the walkaway
rights for the clubs, too.
- Instead of a luxury tax after $30 million, there's now discussion
that the top-10 spending teams will pay a percentage of their
revenues to the lower-spending teams. That would not be considered a
significant form of revenue sharing and might be frowned upon by the
- There's talk that rookie deals will be standardized at each
position, which would halt the massive amounts being paid to young
players in performance bonuses around the league.