NHL is able to resume playing in less than a month – with 24 teams in action, all in Canada – and could be on the verge of enjoying the peace of work until 2026.
On Monday, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association announced an interim agreement on a return to play model and a memorandum of understanding on a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement.
Should both agreements be ratified, the NHL will immediately proceed to its 24-team expanded playoff format, with the game starting on August 1
The main cities are Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, for the qualifying round and at least the first two rounds of the playoffs, according to a person with direct knowledge of the agreements that spoke with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league and NHLPA did not they released this information.
For the conference finals and the Stanley Cup final, the League said, the league is cautious and flexibility is being afforded in the event of potential spikes in COVID-19 infections.
The extension of the CBA, which was due to expire in September 2022, was considered a necessary step to restart the season, which was paused in March due to the pandemic. The extension covers numerous on and off-ice issues, including the NHL’s potential return to the Olympics, the person said.
If approved, players would be able to compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2022 and in Italy four years later. For this to happen, the NHL should first resolve marketing rights and health insurance, among other issues, with the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
NHL, NHLPA and IIHF have had what have been called productive talks earlier this year. NHL participated in five consecutive Olympics from 1998 to 2014, before jumping 2018 in South Korea.
From a financial standpoint, the extension of the CBA would have attempted to cope with the lost revenue from the rest of the regular season that was being swept away and with empty arenas looming for the playoffs.
The players would postpone 10% of the salaries in the next season which the owners would repay in three consecutive seasons starting in 2022-23, a second person familiar with the proposed deal told the AP. The wage cap will remain at $ 81.5 million for at least next season, the person said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because the details were not disclosed.
Payments of the commitment to owners to equalize hockey revenue at 50/50 would be limited to 20% next season, with the limit going down during the deal, the second person said. If the owners were still to receive money from the players, the CBA would be extended for an additional season. The commitment was one of the biggest complaints of players in recent years.
The agreements require two-thirds approval by the owners.
As for the union, the agreements must first be approved by the majority of the executive committee of 31 members of the NHLPA before voting for full membership. The executive committee is expected to make a recommendation by the end of Tuesday; if approved, players should complete the voting process by Friday.
Over the weekend, the league and players agreed on a wide range of return to game protocols with training camps and games. Players will be able to opt out of the expanded playoffs and will have three days to make a decision once the deal is ratified.
If the league progresses, the matchups are already known: The top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia to the east and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas to the west) play a handful of round-robin games to determine seeding.
Those best suits then face the winners of eight opening rounds, the best of the five series: No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens; No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 11 New York Rangers; N. 7 New York Islanders against N. 10 Florida Panthers; No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. N. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets; No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks; No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes; No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. N. 10 Minnesota Wild; and n. 8 Calgary Flames against n. 9 Winnipeg Jets.
For greater NHL AP coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports