Business of Hockey

Thoughts on the proposed NHL CBA changes

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.

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  • Maybe age has mellowed Bettman, because these are really good and fair changes.

    Great article David.

    • As someone who has played the game on a competitive level for 7+ years… I must say that Bettman has done more good than bad for the game. I know plenty of Canadians who have been cradling pucks since birth that think the same way. He has spread the game across N. America exactly the way any American player would like to see it. I thought his attempt to bring back the World Cup was respectable. He isn’t 100% behind the owners and their $$.

      NHL would be a big brother to league’s like MLL and arena football. Gary has done a good job imo. He even helped fixed the draft odds that worked out perfectly for this team last summer. People outside of hockey always give him his respect.

      • Bettman has done ok.

        BUT, his “policy” on head shots is beyond disgraceful.

        The “revenues” in large part simply are because he keeps adding more teams, generating one-shot franchise fees for the owners, that are not shared with the players, so far.

        He’s had a work stoppage at the end of every ending CBA since he took office.

        He still has not expanded the fan base, overall.

        Probably 15-20% of the cities should not have a team.

        While the change for upping the minimum salary is good, it further evens out the cap playing field because “middle players” will be cut out of the better teams, because there will be no cap space to sign them. After paying the stars and the lower level players.

        He gave the TV contract to his buddy Snyder, when he was alive, questioning whether he got the “best” TV deal possible.

        IMO, he’s the leader of a great sport where the success league operations do not match the greatness of the sport. So he comes up short, IMO.

  • I like many of these changes, but I don’t like the escrow part. This is a huge win for players like Kreider, Trouba, and Panarin as they will get much more money than they would have gotten otherwise. They will get much closer to the full value of their contracts.

    BUT, where is that extra money coming from? Not the owners, we still have a 50/50 split. It comes from the players who will sign contracts in the future, players like Zibanejad, DeAngelo, Fast.

    Long term this is a good thing, but it would have been much fairer if they had incorporated a tax on currently existing long term contracts.

    The NMC, NTC thing may not be just a win for the players. A player with an NMC might be more willing to waive it if he could take the NMC with him.

    • Buch’s contract is coming to an end. I would give him a little less than what Kreider got on his last deal.

      JG and JD will only have a limited amount of time to work with the Zib/Panarin era. It’s cool to see how some talking heads are thinking Rangers are up next. It still doesn’t change the fact that Zib and Panarin will both be 32 and 33 yrs of old by 2025. This era is the only realistic shot at winning anything within this decade. You also have Ignor at 30, he’s no spring chicken right now.

      FO needs to think outside the box and add more to this core right now. Whisper~ Throw a lot of pieces to get Eichel.

  • Gate revenue for the owners has and will be still severely impacted by the pandemic. It’s really had to say what the NHL or other professional sports is going to look like on the other side of the valley.

    If franchises fold there will be more professional athletics trying out for fewer roster spots. Many will likely stay in Europe or hang up the blades if they are close to the end of their careers.

    It will be a different landscape when the pandemic is over and in the meantime, probably not a good time to put together a CBA.

  • So I’m kinda dumb, but that point about 35+ y/o players and retiring…that means cap recapture has been eliminated?

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