The current NHL CBA expires at the end of the 2020-2021 season. If there is one good thing to come from the coronavirus suspension of play, it’s that this forced the league and the players to come to the table to negotiate early as part of Return to Play. Some changes to the CBA have already been agreed upon in principle. The eventual CBA will be brought to the players for a vote.
- The proposed agreement goes through 2025-2026, with a provision for an extra year if escrow amounts are too high. They are going to approach the cap ceiling and escrow differently under the new agreement, using the prior two seasons to calculate the ceiling, not just the prior season. This is a better way to approach things and hopefully solves some of the escrow problems the players had.
- One of the biggest changes in the NHL CBA will be regarding escrow. Escrow will have a cap on it (20%, working its way down to 6%). The way the league will get there is by keeping the salary cap flat until revenues catch up. The magic number is $4.8 billion. This will impact a lot of teams that have been close to the cap. With no amnesty buyouts expected, teams will need to make difficult decisions.
- Participation in the Olympics another key change in the NHL CBA, which is good. Olympic hockey was horrible last time around, especially for Team USA. What an embarrassment that was. Getting NHL players back will at least produce a better product.
- NMCs and NTCs of a traded player now move with the player. That is interesting, since I always thought the player had the option of keeping it intact. Guess not. Now, even if waived for a trade, it will stay with the player on the new team. That’s a win for the players.
- Multi-year 35+ contracts will no longer carry cap penalties if the player retires. That was a stupid rule. Glad that’s gone. This only applies to flat or ascending cap hits, which is fine. It is a deterrent to circumventing the cap.
- Minimum salary goes from $525,000 to $800,000 by the end of the CBA. This is interesting because if revenues don’t change, teams are going to have higher minimum salary players. Either way, it’s good for the players.
- Conditional picks based on a player re-signing are no longer allowed. Thank Jebus. Those were stupid too. This is a change both sides got right.
- There will be no penalty if a player opts out of the return to play format this season. This is another change that both sides got right. It may extend beyond players as well.
There are some good wins here for the players on escrow, salary, and contracts. It closed a lot of the silly loop holes or complicated trades we saw during the current CBA. The owners get what they want with the true –hopefully without escrow at some point– 50/50 HRR split.
These are good first steps in changes to the NHL CBA. It also shows good faith negotiations between the two sides. The players still got screwed by expansion revenues, but that was something they couldn’t negotiate back. It was done and over with as part of the current CBA, and it’s unlikely the league will expand beyond 32 teams. Regardless, the changes we are seeing in the CBA might mean the NHL actually avoids a lockout. That would be nice.