Key Details in The NHL & NHLPA Return-to-Play and CBA Extension Agreement
NHLPA executive board approves tentative CBA, three games per day are planned for the playoff tournament, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST CBA AND RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
NHLPA: announced its executive board (which includes the 31 player representatives) approved the tentative extension to the collective bargaining agreement. It moves today to a ratification vote by the full PA membership. The results will be announced on Friday, July, 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The CBA extension is packaged with the return-to-play plan that requires the approval of the players and the NHL board of governors. A simple majority by the PA membership is needed to approve the CBA extension. Despite recent reports suggesting some players weren’t happy with the process of negotiations, this package is expected to be approved.
No word yet when the board of governors will vote. That will require a two-thirds majority but it is also expected to sail through.
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the return-to-play plan will see three games a day in both Edmonton and Toronto with local start times at noon, 4 pm and 8 pm. Given the two-hour time difference between those cities, it means six games spread over 15 hours per day, perhaps longer if games go into overtime.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talk about hockey overdose! My wife is telling me to enjoy the rest of this month because she knows she won’t see much of me in August and September. That’s assuming COVID-19 doesn’t derail the planned tournament.
The seeding games involving the top-four clubs in each conference during the qualifying round won’t go into unlimited overtime to decide a winner. They’ll instead follow the regular season rules of a brief overtime period followed by a shootout if necessary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 16 teams involved in the qualifying round will be under playoff overtime rules.
McKenzie also reports the league has the power to deem players unfit to play if they think there’s a higher risk of that player becoming extremely ill if they contract COVID-19. He cites Montreal Canadiens’ center Max Domi and New York Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko as examples. Both are type 1 diabetics with celiac disease. To the best of McKenzie’s knowledge, Domi and Kakko intend to play, but doctors will have to sign off on that first.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams has concerns over the coronavirus, but he’s still keen to contend for the Stanley Cup. “I didn’t come back to play 20 games,” said Williams during a video media call. “I came back for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
Williams also stressed the need for the players to take responsibility to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“You need to tighten up the bubble of people you’re hanging out with,” Williams said. “You need make your inner circle is pretty darn small because what you do affects everybody else.
“That’s pretty much the basis of what a team is anyway. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, but at this point your weakest link can take down your whole team.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s probably going to be the approach for all the teams throughout Phase 3. Despite the increase in detection, disinfection, and social-distancing protocols during the phase, the players will still be at risk because they’re still living at home, traveling to and from their team arenas and training facilities, and still in contact with the general public.
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Seth Rorabaugh provides further details about the league’s protocols for Phases 3 and 4.
Some of the noteworthy Phase 3 rules include the independent media being allowed at team facilities but prohibited from direct contact with the players, the players being discouraged from socializing with one another outside team facilities, and tighter restrictions on commonly-used items and food.
In Phase 4, everyone must use league-provided and approved transportation with the secure zone. There are detailed guidelines on the use of masks and face coverings, and a limited number of media allowed access to the games, with interviews conducted remotely. Speaking of the media…
CBC: Broadcasters and print journalists still have questions over how they’re going to cover the playoff tournament in the two host cities. Rob Corte, VP of Sportsnet and NHL Production, said those details have yet to be finalized. Frank Seravalli, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, said the situation remains in flux.
It’s believed the broadcasts will be handled like the Olympics, with only cameramen, technicians, and production staff allowed inside the bubble while commentators call the games elsewhere from a live feed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The media won’t have the usual access during these two phases that they enjoy in normal situations. It will be challenging to provide the usual in-depth coverage. The teams might prefer the absence of media intrusion, especially during and immediately following the games.
ESPN.COM: Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, doesn’t expect any hurdles in negotiations with the league regarding its intention to return to the Winter Olympics. Issues such as health insurance, travel costs, and marketing rights must be worked out before NHL players can participate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The IIHF desperately wanted the NHL to take part in the 2018 Winter Games, even offering to pick up the tab for travel, insurance, and so on.
IN OTHER NEWS…
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks released a statement indicating they intend to keep their name and logo but are committed to raising the bar even higher in their efforts to increase awareness of Native American culture. The statement comes amid discussions by the NFL’s Washington Redskins and MLB’s Cleveland Indians about changing their names.
TSN: The NHLPA will be in court today attempting to dismiss a lawsuit by a former employee alleging the cover-up of more than $100K from union funds by one of its executives between 2008 and 2019.
Details of tentative CBA extension, more details on the return-to-play plan, an update on the league’s COVID-19 testing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
KEY DETAILS FROM TENTATIVE CBA EXTENSION
NHL.COM: The NHL and NHLPA yesterday reached an agreement in principle on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a four-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The extension, as well as the protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of the return-to-play plan, are subject to ratification by the league board of governors and the PA membership later this week.
Among the key details of the tentative CBA extension (as per TSN):
The agreement would expire on Sept. 15, 2026. It can be extended to 2027 if the escrow debts owed to the NHL team owners for 2019-20 exceed $125 million by the end of the deal,
The salary cap will be frozen at $81.5 million for 2020-21 and remain there until league revenue returns to $4.8 billion. After that, the cap will be determined by a new formula relying on actual hockey-related revenue (HRR) from two years ago and projected HRR for the immediately prior season,
An escrow cap will be implemented, with the players paying no more than 20 percent in 2020-21, 14 to 18 percent in 2021-22, 10 percent in 2022-23, and six percent annually for the final three seasons of the deal,
The players will defer 10 percent of their salary and signing bonuses for 2020-21, which will be returned to them in equal installments over each of the final three seasons of the agreement,
All front-loaded contracts will be limited to less than 50 percent variability between the highest and lowest compensation years,
No limits on signing bonuses,
The NHL will participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2026 Milan Olympic pending negotiations with the IOC and IIHF,
The minimum salary will be $700k in 2020-21, rising to $750K for the next three seasons, $775K for 2024-25, and $800k in 2025-26.
Some notable new ones include:
The salary cap recapture penalty will not exceed the player’s normal salary-cap hit, but it will take longer to pay it back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Call this the Shea Weber rule. As TSN’s Frank Seravalli explained, if Weber retired before his contract expired in 2025-26, the Nashville Predators would’ve been tagged with a cap recapture of over $24 million for that season because of the way Weber’s actual salary was structured. Now, they’ll face a cap recapture penalty of $7.86 million, but it will take them three additional seasons to pay that back.
Players on contracts expiring after 2020-21 are eligible to sign contract extensions beginning in 2021-22 three days following the ratification of the CBA extension,
Players with expiring contracts on teams not participating in the upcoming playoff tournament and those who opt-out of the tournament are eligible to sign contracts outside North America. However, those who opt-out won’t be permitted to return for the 2020-21 NHL season. Those on the non-playoff clubs that sign outside North America would be eligible to return if offered a new contract,
Prospect players can sign entry-level contracts but will not be eligible to play in the upcoming playoff tournament. They will be eligible to join their teams next season and will be considered one year closer to free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov, Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov, and New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin won’t be suiting up for their respective clubs in the playoff tournament.
NHL & NHLPA RELEASES PHASE 3 AND 4 RETURN-TO-PLAY DETAILS
NHL.COM: The league and the PA also released answers to key questions regarding the protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of their tentative return-to-play plan. As with the CBA extension, this plan is subject to ratification from the board of governors and PA membership.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several of the key points were noted in yesterday’s morning coffee headlines.
THE NATIONAL POST: Michael Traikos reports Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician based in Mississauga, was impressed with the NHL’s 47-page protocol list, especially those covering life in the two host cities of Edmonton and Toronto. “This plan could work. It is certainly a possibility,” he said. Chakrabarti doesn’t believe there’s any danger of the players spreading COVID-19 in those host cities. Once players are in the bubble there’s no getting out, plus there’s less chance of the virus getting in and infecting the players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No system is perfect and there’s always a risk of the coronavirus breaching that bubble. Nevertheless, the odds of that happening are considerably reduced because of the strict protocols for Phase 4.
Getting to Phase 4, however, will be a challenge. While the teams participating in the tournament will be under stricter protocols in Phase 3 than they currently are, they will still be traveling to and from their homes daily and interacting with members of the public, putting them at risk of contracting the virus. Speaking of which…
NHL.COM: The league provided their latest COVID-19 testing update, indicating nine more players have tested positive during Phase 2. Of over 2,900 tests of 396 players, 23 came back positive. That’s an increase of eight positives tests from players skating in Phase 2 protocols and one positive from a player outside that protocol. Those players have been in self-isolation and are following Health Canada and CDC guidelines.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 3, which starts on July 13, will determine if the playoff tournament takes place. A big spike in tests over the next three weeks could postpone, delay, or cancel Phase 4.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Kevin Hayes is this season’s winner of the Gene Hart Memorial Award.
SPORTSNET: It’s unlikely Calgary Flames defenseman Juuso Valimaki will participate in the playoff tournament. He missed the entire season to a knee injury, but playing in the tournament would make him eligible for next year’s expansion draft.
TORONTO SUN: Former NHL player Eddie Shack has been in and out of hospital battling cancer for the past eight months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shack is among the most popular personalities in hockey. I met him as a kid during the 1970s when he was doing promotional work for The Pop Shoppe and he couldn’t have been nicer. Many years later, he signed a stick for me at an NHL Oldtimers Game in Calgary. Here’s hoping “The Entertainer” pulls through.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MULTIPLE BLUES TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
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.
LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
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.
LATEST CBA EXTENSION NEWS
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.