The executive board of the NHL Players' Association on Wednesday approved a proposed new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL and referred the tentative agreement to its full membership for a vote, with approval expected to be announced on Friday.
The deal, which would extend labor peace through the 2025-26 season and allow players to represent their homelands at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Games, also is expected to gain approval from the NHL's board of governors.
In addition, the NHL's Return to Play plan will have teams opening training camp in their respective home cities next Monday, the season will resume on Aug. 1 with qualifying games in two hub cities, and it could run as late as Oct. 2, according to reports by Canadian media. Free agency would begin a week after the Stanley Cup is awarded, without the free-agent interview period that was built in to recent seasons. The draft will take place on Oct. 6, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
Subject to minor changes, training camp for the 2020-21 season is scheduled to start on Nov. 17 and the season would begin on Dec. 1. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said teams will each play a full 82-game schedule next season, which could be accomplished by eliminating bye weeks and the All Star break.
The new collective bargaining agreement will include a flat salary cap of $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season because of the revenue losses the NHL has been facing since it paused operations on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Players will defer 10% of their salary next season but will be repaid over the course of the next three seasons as hockey-related revenues resume flowing.
The new collective bargaining agreement also would cap escrow at 20% next season. The escrow system, a mechanism by which money is withheld from players' paychecks in order to ensure a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues between players and clubs, has been a point of contention for players. The maximum escrow percentage for the 2021-22 season could be as high as 18 percent, depending on the level of hockey-related revenues.
The minimum NHL salary will be set at $700,000 and will rise to $775,000 in the last three years of the new labor deal.
This season's playoffs will be contested in two hub sites - reportedly Edmonton and Toronto - and will take place without fans. Players, coaches and staffers will be required to remain in as tight a bubble as possible and will undergo regular COVID-19 testing. They will be kept away from nonessential personnel and away from their families until the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. To further reduce the risk of anyone in the bubble contracting or spreading COVID-19, strict cleaning and sanitation standards will be enforced at the competition and practice rinks and players will be urged to stay with a secure zone.
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