NHL, NHLPA Reach Tentative Agreement on Return-to-Play and CBA Extension

NHL, NHLPA Reach Tentative Agreement on Return-to-Play and CBA Extension

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association released a joint statement today announcing a tentative agreement on a Return-to-Play Plan and a Memorandum of Understanding on a four-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement. 

“As part of the tentative agreement, the following dates have been established:

July 13 – Start of formal training camps;

July 26 – Clubs travel to hub cities;

August 1 – Start of Qualifying Round.

The tentative agreement is now subject to approval by the NHL’s Board of Governors, as well as the NHLPA’s Executive Board followed by the full NHLPA membership. The respective review and approval processes will take place over the next few days and there will be no further comment until those processes are completed.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  I hope to have more details as they become available for the Tuesday, July 7 morning coffee headlines. I suspect most of it will be information that has already been reported in recent days and duly noted on this site. 

NHL Teams Most Affected By a Flat Salary Cap for 2020-21

NHL Teams Most Affected By a Flat Salary Cap for 2020-21


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 6, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA finalize a tentative return-to-play agreement. Check out the details in today’s morning coffee headlines.


TSN/SPORTSNET: Bob McKenzie, Frank Seravalli, Elliotte Friedman, and Chris Johnston reported the NHL and NHL Players Association have tentatively agreed on protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of their return-to-play program. Here are the notable points:

The NHL & NHLPA reach a tentative agreement on the final phases of their return-to-play plan (Image via NHL.com).

Bob McKenzie reports negotiations to finalize an extension to the collective bargaining agreement are expected to continue Monday. That extension and the return-to-play plan must be ratified by the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA executive committee, followed by a full membership vote.

No ratification can take place, however, until a CBA memorandum of understanding (MOU) is completed. The PA membership vote requires up to 72 hours to complete and it’s unlikely to be held before Wednesday.

The target date for the start of Phase 3 (training camp) remains July 13, with teams traveling to the two host cities (Edmonton and Toronto) on or about July 26 and Phase 4 (playoff tournament beginning Aug. 1.

Phase 3 rosters are limited to 30 skaters and unlimited goaltenders. Only players eligible to play in the playoff tournament can take part in Phase 3 training camps.

Players can opt-out of Phase 3 and 4 without penalty but must make their decision three days following the ratification vote. Teams must submit their lists of participating players by July 9.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a change from previous reports suggesting a player could opt-out at any time without penalty.

Players will undergo a pre-participation medical exam. They and the team staff will also be tested for COVID-19 48 hours before reporting to camp and will be tested every second day afterward. If results aren’t available within 24 hours, they cannot report until a negative test is confirmed.

If a player is determined to be at substantial risk of contracting a serious illness, they’ll be deemed unfit to play and treated as a hockey-related injury, though they can also seek a second opinion. If a player or an immediate family member develops COVID-19 symptoms, he must immediately notify his team’s medical staff, self-isolate, and go through testing protocols.

Players are not permitted to skate at public facilities during Phase 3. Fitness testing of players isn’t permitted. Phase 3 fitness activities include on/off ice sessions with coaches and traditional training camp activities.

Teams failing to comply with return-to-play protocols will be subject to significant financial penalties and the potential loss of draft picks. That includes individuals leaving the host city bubble without permission, which could result in those individuals being removed from the tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if that loss of draft picks could include their first-round pick in this year’s draft. That would be a powerful dissuasion to skirting the rules, especially for those 16 clubs in the qualifying round. One of the eight clubs eliminated from that round will have a chance to win this year’s draft lottery.

Phase 3 or 4 can be postponed, delayed, moved or canceled if either the league or the PA believe conditions could create a risk or jeopardize the health of players. If the PA is dissatisfied with the decision of the NHL commissioner, it can file a grievance with an independent arbitrator.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a crucial point. A significant outbreak of COVID-19 among one or more teams could bring the return-to-play plan to a screeching halt. 

Coaches won’t be required to wear masks or face coverings on the bench. There won’t be a dress code for players during Phase 4.


Frank Seravalli reported on what life would be like within a host city quarantine bubble during Phase 4. Among the noteworthy points:

Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 people, including no more than 31 players. That will include at least one physician and one club Phase 4 compliance officer.

Each player and team staff member will be subjected to daily COVID-19 testing. That also includes persons involved in housing, feeding, and transporting the players and team staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless those workers are also staying within that bubble, daily testing probably isn’t a foolproof way to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.

Each player will have their own hotel room and won’t be permitted to enter each other’s rooms. Each team will be assigned designated floors. Housekeeping will be provided every third day.

Players will have access to hotel bars, restaurants, pools, and fitness facilities. The league is also considering approved excursions inside and outside the bubble. Players authorized to leave the bubble for medical or personal reasons (birth of a child, death of a family member, etc) will be permitted to return following a quarantine and testing period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s important for the players’ morale to have access to entertainment and recreation facilities, especially for teams advancing deep into the playoffs. Those trips outside the bubble, as Seravalli noted, could be for excursions like pre-arranged tee times at golf courses.

The players’ immediate families will be permitted to join them within the bubble during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final once acceptable quarantine and testing have been conducted inside the bubble.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will be very important for those players. By that point, they’ll have been away from their loved ones for over five weeks.

Details of the plan could be released soon. In the meantime, I recommend following the links provided above for more information.

With a tentative agreement on return-to-play, I expect we’ll see a CBA extension at some point this week if Phase 3 is to begin on July 13. That will allow time for the PA membership to hold their vote.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 5, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 5, 2020

More details on the return-to-play plan and CBA extension, an update on the Blues’ COVID-19 tests, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reported yesterday the NHL and NHLPA were closing in on a tentative memorandum of understanding on an all-encompassing six-year extension on the collective bargaining agreement and a return-to-play plan to complete this season.

Could an agreement between the NHL and NHLPA be announced today? (Image via NHL.com).

It requires ratification by the NHL Board of Governors and the full NHLPA membership. The latter would require 72 hours to vote.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli said if an agreement was announced on Saturday the players’ vote could begin electronically on Monday. As of this update, there’s no sign of this agreement, though that delay could be due to yesterday’s American Independence Day holiday. 

Seravalli listed the pertinent details of the proposed agreement, including the critical dates of the return-to-play plan, the term of the CBA (end of 2025-26 with a possible one-year extension), Olympic participation in 2022 and 2026 pending negotiations with the IOC and IIHF, a cap on escrow (20 percent next season and gradually dropping to six percent for the final three seasons), freezing the salary cap at $81.5 million until league revenue returns to $4.8 billion, and outlawing front-loaded contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Further details on those and other issues were revealed from other sources on Friday evening. You can read about them in Saturday’s morning coffee headlines.

Other notable points include the players receiving a post-career health care subsidy of between $3,500.00 and $5,000.00 per player, the opportunity for players to rehab long-term injuries in a city or place of their choice unless the team can prove that rehab isn’t possible there, and no requirement for players who played in Europe to pass through waivers to return to the NHL provided they sign their NHL contract by Dec. 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The last one is a significant change. In the past, a player who skated with a European team at the start of the season who subsequently signed an NHL contract could be plucked off the waiver wire by a rival club.

Pierre LeBrun, meanwhile, reported the NHL remains focused on a full 82-game schedule for 2020-21 beginning in December or January. That would mean the Stanley Cup Final could be played sometime next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll have to get through this season first. If the return-to-play plan is carried out to its hopeful conclusion, the Stanley Cup will be awarded in the first week of October. The 2020 Draft will be held in mid-to-late October, and the free-agent market would open Nov. 1.

Earlier reports speculated the league would kick off next season on New Year’s Day with the 2021 Winter Classic in Minnesota. That would mean training camps would have to open in early-December, meaning the clubs that reach the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final under the return-to-play plan will have a very short off-season.

STLTODAY.COM: Jim Thomas reports further details were provided on the multiple Blues who tested positive for COVID-19. A source said it was four players and one coach. The problem may have started over a week ago when several members of the team visited a local bar. One player soon tested positive, followed by another player and a coach, and then two more players.

It’s unknown if any of the five displayed symptoms or were asymptomatic. Some of them could miss the start of the training camp period in Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan slated for July 13.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said these and other positive tests weren’t necessarily surprising.

I think it’s fair to say that our experience to this point is consistent with what we expected,” he said via email. “We didn’t go down this road thinking we were not going to see any positives. Of course, we were going to see positives.

Daly cited factors such as players spread out across the globe, their individual behaviors, locations, conditioning, and modes of travel. He stressed the importance of “conservative approaches and response management” is critical at this point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league’s approach has always been that isolated cases, especially those involving asymptomatic players, wouldn’t derail the return-to-play plan. That will be put to the test under Phase 3 when the players return to their NHL cities for mandatory training camps. While the teams will be undertaking strict health and self-distancing protocols, the players will be under greater risk of exposure in those cities than they will in the two hub cities for Phase 4.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers reports a source claims Brent Seabrook hopes to rejoin the Chicago Blackhawks if play continues later this summer. The 35-year-old defenseman underwent surgeries on his right shoulder and both hips earlier this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seabrook won’t be the only player sidelined at the time the schedule was interrupted by COVID-19 who could return to action in the proposed playoff tournament. Others include Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Columbus’ Seth Jones, the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider, and Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel.

The Best And Worst Luck In NHL Draft Lottery History

The Best And Worst Luck In NHL Draft Lottery History


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 4, 2020

​​Multiple Blues players test positive for COVID-19 plus the latest return-to-play and CBA extension news in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


THE ATHLETIC/STLTODAY.COM: report the St. Louis Blues yesterday canceled practices at the team training facility because multiple players tested positive for COVID-19. It’s estimated at least two-thirds of the Blues players took part in Phase 2 workouts this week.

The names and exact numbers of players testing positive have not been released by the team or the league. It’s believed no staff members were among them.

Small-group workouts were canceled for the weekend, but the club is expected to resume practices on Monday. The Phase 2 workouts are voluntary. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports at least one Blues player won’t be attending over coronavirus concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the most recent outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests in the NHL since the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily closed their training facility two weeks ago after three players and two staff members tested positive.

This news comes as the NHL and NHLPA are negotiating the details on Phase 3 and 4 of the Return-to-Play Plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The plan and extension have yet to be put to a vote by the NHLPA membership. This recent news could influence the players’ vote.


WINNIPEG SUN: The Canadian government provided quarantine exemption to NHL players traveling to the two hub cities later this month for the league’s 24-team playoff tournament. The Public Health Agency of Canada assessed the league’s return-to-play plan and concluded it provided “robust measures” to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

THE SCORE: Toronto mayor John Tory said the NHL provided a thorough plan outlining its safety measures. Toronto and Edmonton are the two host cities for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. Tory indicated the league had “incredibly detailed disinfection and public health measures” that met his city’s protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the league and the NHLPA approve the return-to-play plan, Phase 3 will be the determining factor whether Phase 4 goes off. Under Phase 3, players participating in the 24-team tournament take part in mandatory training camps in their respective NHL cities. While the league claims its health protocols will be much stricter compared to Phase 2, the players won’t be under a quarantine bubble as they will be in Phase 4. That means there’s still a risk of a spike in positive COVID-19 tests.

The plan reportedly allows players to opt-out of the tournament for whatever reason without penalty. If there’s an outbreak among several teams during Phase 3, it could lead to a large number of players dropping out over coronavirus concerns, potentially derailing Phase 4.


THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance provides some new details:

A source told Pierre LeBrun the extension would be to 2025-26.

The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million until league revenues reach $4.8 billion. After that, a formula for establishing the cap will be employed using hockey-related revenue from the previous two seasons.

The escrow cap will be 20 percent for 2020-21, 14 to 18 percent for 2021-22 pending revenue from the previous season, 10 percent for 2022-23, and six percent for the final three seasons.

An escrow debt of $125 million or more at that time would trigger a one-year extension to the CBA.

Entry-level salaries will be $950K for players drafted in 2022 and 2023, rising to $975K in the next two years and reaching $1 million by 2026. There will also be increases to bonuses for players on entry-level contracts.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman provides further information:

This year’s playoff bonus money will double to $32 million and will reduce to $20 million for next season,

The minimum salary will rise to $750K for 2020-21 and reach $800K by the end of the deal,

No-move and no-trade clauses will travel with the player who agrees to accept a trade, even if that clause hasn’t kicked in yet,

Players 35-and-older can sign contracts that are flat or ascending and there won’t be an ongoing cap hit if they retire,

Six-year front-loaded contracts worth at least 7.5 percent of the salary cap cannot exceed 35 percent between the highest and lowest salary amounts. Rules for other contracts remain the same. Players and teams could consider back-loading new contracts because escrow is capped at a lower number and revenue should increase during that period,

No changes to signing bonuses,

No more conditional draft picks in trades based on a player re-signing with his new team,

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This extension and the return-to-play plan must be ratified by the NHLPA and the league board of governors. Still no word as to when that will take place. With Phase 3 supposedly set for July 13, ratification will have to come soon.