NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr stood side by side in the early hours of Sunday morning to announce there was a framework in place for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Although the deal still requires language clarification, legal fine-tuning and ratification from both sides, a verbal agreement has been reached on the major points.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Bettman said, “but it’s good to be at this point.”
The deal still requires majority approval from both the board of governors — as early as Tuesday — and the NHLPA membership before it can become official.
The tentative agreement is a 10-year deal with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years and includes contract term limits at seven years (eight years for a team to re-sign its own players), a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.
“I am happy deal has been reached and excited to get back to playing hockey,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said in an email.
The NHL had hoped to change the opening of free agency to July 10, but the players stood firm and it will remain July 1, although it will start later this year due to the delayed season.
Olympic participation will not be part of this agreement; the two parties will work on a side agreement regarding the Olympics and possibly the World Cup of Hockey.
Veteran forward Shane Doan said the players knew it would be concessionary bargaining from the beginning, but was satisfied with the terms agreed upon.
Players still must officially vote on a new collective bargaining agreement, but the framework for their return from the league’s fourth work stoppage has been reached.
“You knew you were in that position, and I think as a union we got the best deal we could possibly get, and you’re happy,” he said. “You’re just excited to play hockey again and do what you really enjoy and have a passion for.”
Word of the agreement came after the two sides hashed out their remaining differences for more than 16 hours at a hotel in midtown Manhattan. It was the lengthiest negotiating session and latest night of a lockout that has lasted 113 days — almost four months.
Bettman did not have details on a timeline for ratification or a potential schedule for the opening of the regular season. It is believed the sides are aiming for either a 48- or 50-game season depending on how quickly things get done. Sources told ESPN.com that a 50-game season would start Jan. 15, while a 48-game season would start Jan. 19.
Fehr said he hoped the next steps could be accomplished “fairly rapidly” and with “dispatch.”
“We’ll get back to what we used to call business as usual just as fast as we can,” he said.