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NHL players ratify CBA; work continues on document

4:14 PM, Jan 12, 2013   |    comments
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the National Hockey League lockout during a press conference at the Westin New York in Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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(KSDK Sports) -- NHL players have ratified the collective bargaining agreement, but the lockout still hasn't been lifted as the two sides work on completing a key document.

The memorandum of understanding contains all of the major points of the CBA. Both sides need to sign off on that before the NHL can officially end the lockout and announce schedules, etc.

If that signing happens Saturday, the following is expected to occur: Training camps would open Sunday, a 48-game season would start on Jan. 19 and the last game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final would be played before the end of June. This would be the shortest NHL season since 1994-95, when 48 games were also played. That, too, was necessitated by a lockout.

"I have enough tenure to have also been there in 1994-95," said Nashville Predators general manager David Poile. "As I remember that season, it was energized, stressful, and to use a phrase that will be over-used, every game was like a playoff game. I know we will all be going to our teams and saying we have to get out of the gate strong or we won't make the playoffs.'

This season's schedule would be conference-only, meaning an Eastern Conference team won't face a Western Conference team until the Final.

Voting ran from 8 p.m. ET Thursday to 8 a.m. Saturday, but the continued work on the memorandum delayed the union's announcement of the ratification. A vote total wasn't given.

Owners unanimously approved the CBA on Wednesday, four days after an agreement was reached after an all-night bargaining session in New York. The agreement, reached just before 5 a.m. Sunday, on Day 113 of the lockout.

Under terms of that 10-year agreement, owners and players will have a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, down from 57% last season.

In addition, players can no longer receive a contract longer than seven years, unless they are re-signing with their own team. Then, they are allowed an eighth year. No multi-year contract can have more than a 35% year-to-year variance on salary amounts and the lowest salary in the deal can be no lower than 50% of the highest. That was agreed to because some teams had been tacking low-salary years on the end of contracts to decrease the team's cap hit.

Teams also can't bury players in the minor leagues for salary cap reasons, as the New York Rangers have done with Wade Redden and his $5.6 million cap hit. Under the new rules, a player earning more than $900,000 who is sent to the minors still will have his cap hit count against the salary cap.

This season's salary cap will stay at $70.2 million (pro-rated), meaning teams should have no difficulty getting under the cap, provided they had no problems before the lockout. However, next season, the cap will drop to $64.3 million, and that could cause some difficulty. Each team will be allowed two compliance buyouts of contracts that won't count against the salary cap but will count against the players' 50% share.

Players lost 40% of their wages this season because of the lockout, but they did gain a new pension program. Plus, to get players to accept a 50-50 split, owners agreed to give players $300 million in "make whole" money or deferred payments to ease the escrow hit on those who had previously signed contracts.

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