Could there actually be a silver lining when it comes to the games, jobs, and money that the Coronavirus stole from the NHL and NHLPA since March 12 when the 2019-20 regular season was paused due to the rampant COVID19 outbreak?
On Tuesday night, TSN insider Bob McKenzie reported that the NHL and the NHLPA were not only closing in on ratifying their NHL Return To Play plan they announced in late May but also extending the current Collective Bargaining Agreement – that was set to expire on September 15, 2022 – for three seasons. On Wednesday, McKenzie and then Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman broke the news that the league and the NHLPA had worked through the night Tuesday into Wednesday and Canada Day, which was celebrated today north of the border, and found common ground on all of the hot-button issues with a new CBA and the NHL Return To Play plan. The expectation is that the players will vote on whether to approve both the NHL Return To Play and CBA proposals at once on Friday or Saturday.
For a league that has suffered through two lockouts – one costing the 2004-05 regular season – in the last 15 seasons, the unity and harmony they and the NHLPA have displayed since the Coronavirus changed not just the game, but life as we know it, has been nothing short of impressive.
“It’s been really good,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Boston Hockey Now early Wednesday evening in an email. “We are aligned in doing what we can to get the game back on the ice while at the same time ensuring that we are taking every necessary precaution to protect the health and safety of our Players and others in the NHL community. I’m really proud of how we have responded collectively to this situation.”
The NHL and NHLPA also agreed to make Edmonton the hub city for the Western Conference and Toronto the hub city for the Boston Bruins and the rest of the Eastern Conference. As McKenzie explained, the recent outbreak of COVID19 cases in Las Vegas wiped the city that only this past weekend appeared to be a lock as a hub city, out of the running and turned the focus north of the border to two cities in Edmonton and Toronto that have the virus under control as of now.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet did an excellent in-depth look at the two proposals everyone is hoping gets approved by the Fourth of July paving the way to Phase 4 and the 2020 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs that if all goes well, will begin the first week of August. According to Johnston, Phase 3 and training camp, which is currently set to begin on July 10 in the home cities of all 24 playoff teams, could be pushed back to July 13 but that won’t affect the expected start of the playoffs. Johnston also reported that teams could report to their respective hub cities as early as July 24.
Here are some other bullet points from the tentative CBA agreement highlighted by Johnston:
- The NHL salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 for the next two seasons and then go to $82.5 million in 2022-23.
- Cap escrow will be reduced to 20-percent starting next season and move down after that
- NHL players will return to the Winter Olympics in 2022 and 2026 pending IOC approval
- Ten percent of the players’ salary next season will be deferred
- The players have the right to opt out of the NHL Return To Play plan should they feel unsafe.