NHL, NHLPA agree in principle on new CBA

NEW YORK (Ticker) - The longest labor dispute in the history of North American sports has come to an end.

On Wednesday, after meeting for more than 24 consecutive hours, the NHL and Players Association announced an agreement in principle on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, ending a 301-day labor dispute that cancelled the 2004-05 season.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but TSN of Canada is reporting it is a six-year deal with a hard team-by-team salary cap with a first-year payroll range of $21 million to $39 million, including all player costs. The salary cap and payroll range will move up or down as revenues increase or decrease each year of the deal.

The two sides still need to ratify the deal, but that is expected to happen next week when the NHL Board of Governors meet.

“We are very excited the NHL and NHLPA have come to a tentative agreement today on a new collective bargaining agreement,” managing partner of the Buffalo Sabres Larry Quinn said in a statement. “We will attend a briefing session in New York City to review the proposed agreement pending the outcome of the ratification process.”

The agreement evidences several concessions by the NHLPA, which vehemently had been against a salary cap. Included in the cap agreement is a provision that allows a player to make a maximum salary of $7.4 million - 20 percent of the team cap. The minimum salary is set at $450,000.

“We were fighting over an issue that we ended up settling on and we lost a season for it,” Detroit Red Wings left wing Brendan Shanahan told ESPNews. “Players will be frustrated over that. My focus more is gonna just be on going forward and how we are going to make this product better and how we are going to make this game better.”

According to TSN, the deal includes a 24 percent rollback in existing player contracts and qualifying offers. The league’s total expenditure on player costs is not to exceed 54 percent of defined hockey-related revenue.

Other items include liberalized free agency, a more restrictive entry level system, revamped salary arbitration, improved pension benefits and a revenue-sharing plan. Unrestricted free agency will be available to players at least 31 years of age in 2005, 29 in 2006 and a year younger each of the next two years.

TSN also is reporting a draft lottery will take place on July 21 with a new format in which each of the 30 teams start with three balls in an attempt to land the top overall pick, which widely is considered to be Sidney Crosby.

A ball will be removed for each playoff appearance a team has made the last three seasons and for each top overall pick over the last four years, but every team will retain a minimum of one ball.

The draft, which is scheduled for July 30 in Ottawa’s Westin Hotel, will be seven rounds, as opposed to nine in previous years, and the team with the first pick will not pick again until No. 60. The team with the last pick in the first round will have the first in the second round.

After the 2004-05 campaign was wiped out due to the labor dispute, the sides held more than 80 sessions in an attempt to prevent another disastrous situation.

On February 16, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, making the NHL the first major North American sports league to have an entire season wiped out due to a labor dispute.

The two sides then met every week beginning in early May until finally reaching an agreement, which upon ratification will end a lockout that began on September 15.

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Updated Wednesday, Jul 13, 2005