Five days short of a January 11 deadline that would have scuttled the entire season, the NHL and NHLPA have reached a deal that, pending approval from a player vote, will end the lockout and allow for a condensed 50-game season. Teams will likely only play other teams from within their own conference during the shortened regular season. The Associated Press reports:
A marathon negotiating session that lasted more than 16 hours, stretching from Saturday afternoon until just before dawn Sunday, produced a 10-year deal that still must be ratified by the players.
After the sides stayed mostly apart for two days, following late-night talks that turned sour, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh worked virtually around the clock to get the sides back to the bargaining table.
This time it worked - on the 113th day of the work stoppage.
All games through January 14 had previously been canceled prior to the agreement, but play is slated to start soon after that date. The Denver Post writes, "An abbreviated season will begin, possibly as long as 52 games and no shorter than 48, some time between Jan. 15-20." Though not every KHL deal is the same, when Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in September, the New York Times noted, "Both players can terminate their K.H.L. contracts and return to the N.H.L. if the lockout ends." It'll be a harried and confusing next week or two, with much travel and little time to prepare, but it seems like teams will have most of their rosters intact and play will start in time for a substantial chunk of the regular season to go on as if there were never any management shenanigans in the first place.
The NBA went through similarly abbreviated season last year, so we know this: Expect a great deal of hand-wringing about the increased likelihood of injuries in the absence of a proper training camp, some talk of "asterisks" late in the schedule when play is sloppy, and for everyone to pretty much forget about the shortened regular season once the playoffs start.
If you're curious as to how we got into this whole mess in the first place, see our September explainer. Until we know more details—expected to come out later today—a few happy responses from the world of hockey, which, just like everyone, is waking up to the news:
Woke up to some great news...Big thank you to all who put in countless hours to get this thing done @nhlpa— Matt Moulson (@MMoulson) January 6, 2013
As players we can now do what we do best. Proudly pull on our jerseys and play with complete passion for our cities and fans.— Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) January 6, 2013
Tres bonne nouvelle pour tous les amateurs de hockey pour debuter cette Annee, y va avoir du hockey de la LNH cette annee,qu'en pensez vous?— Georges Laraque (@GeorgesLaraque) January 6, 2013
Just want to thank each and every supporter of Mora IK. It was a pleasure being part of this team! I won't forget my time here. #thankyou!— Bobby Ryan (@b_ryan9) January 6, 2013
So I guess it's time to jump on my bed again?— John Carlson (@JohnCarlson74) January 6, 2013
Update, 8:39 a.m.: A few more details are already trickling in. ESPN's Pierre Lebrun has tweeted some of the terms of the agreement:
Further to @aaronward_nhl reporting Year 2 cap at $64.3 M, I can add that Year 2 floor will be $44 M— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 6, 2013
Player contract term limit at 7 years (8 years for your own player).— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 6, 2013
On first-year cap: upper limit is $60 M but teams can spend up to $70.2 M. Cap floor is $44 M— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 6, 2013
NHL had hoped to change opening of free agency to July 10 but the players stood firm and it remains July 1 in new CBA— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 6, 2013
LeBrun also noted that a January 15 start date would indicate a 50-game season, while a January 19 start date would indicate a 48 game season. Some reporters are suggesting the former is more likely, some the latter.