February 26, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks celebrate after a goal by Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank (21) against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

NHL, NHLPA Reach Tentative Deal to End Lockout

In the early hours of Sunday morning, owners and players left negotiations finally reaching a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. For the first time, after a meeting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Director Donald Fehr stood side by side to deliver the great news to NHL fans all over the world. However, the agreement still needs a couple more tweeks, like language clarification, legal fine-tuning and ratification from both sides, but the main point is that the two sides have agreed to the major points of these negotiations. The deal also still requires majority approved from both the board of governors and the NHLPA membership. The two sides negotiated for more than 16 hours at a hotel in midtown Manhattan. It was the lengthiest negotiating session and latest night of a lockout that lasted 113 days, almost four months.

The agreement is a 10-year deal with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years and includes contract term limits at seven years (eight years for a team to re-sign its own players. For the first year, the salary cap is $60 million but teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period, while the floor is $44 million. Contract salary variance is capped at 35% from year-to-year, with the provision that the last year can’t vary much more than 50% from the highest-salaried year. Revenue sharing will spread $200 million, with a $60 million NHLPA-initiated growth fund included. The opening of Free Agency will remain at July 1 after the NHL had hoped to move it up to July 10. Olympic participation for NHL players is not part of this agreement. The two sides will deliberate on that at a different time.

George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, issued this statement congratulating the NHL and NHLPA:

“The negotiated agreement represents the successful culmination of a long and difficult road in which the parties ultimately were able to reach mutually acceptable solutions to a wide variety of contentious subjects of bargaining.”

Bettman did not however have any details on a timeline for ratification or a potential schedule for the opening of the regular season. Many believe the NHL and NHLPA are aiming for either a 48 or 50 game season, all depending on how quickly this deal gets ratified, etc. Some sources told ESPN.com that a 50-game season would begin on January 15, and that a 48-game season would start on January 19.

The “hero” of these negotiations might become federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh. After the Wednesday meetings, when talks went a little downhill, Beckenbaugh relieved some of the tension by meeting with both sides separately the next two days. Those two sessions appear to have given both sides enough clarity to find common ground and continue to progress.

The NHLPA’s window to vote on reauthorizing the union’s executives the right to file a disclaimer of interest expired at 6 p.m. tonight, which would have provided the “hammer” to disband the union should negotiations go down the drain. This coming after Fehr chose not to file a disclaimer on Wednesday night.

I think all of you will join me in saying, “HALLELUJAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.” We will have a hockey season! BUT, how many fans are gonna return??? We’ve a lot of talk in the last month or so about how will fans respond if a deal is made. Well, I love my teams too much to not root for them. I love the game too much to not return. I certainly hope that not too many fans abandon the league. I will not. Also, on a side note, is it a coincidence that a deal is made between the NHL and NHLPA the day I receive my version of NHL 13 in the mail????? Pretty spectacular!!!!

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Tags: Anaheim Ducks Donald Fehr Gary Bettman NHL NHLPA

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