And the drums did sound, and the trumpets were heard on high, and lo, the hockey was returned to us, and it was very, very good.
As it was supposed to be, a deal was cut just in time to save a partial season, a deal that probably could have been cut months ago. But at least there won't be another blank space on the Cup. Plenty of fans are fed up and claim they won't come back, and good for them. The rest of us knew this whole time that we didn't have a choice. It's an abusive relationship: I know the NHL is going to keep doing this to us, and I know it's wrong and unacceptable, but it remains my best option for watching a highly competitive hockey league, in spite of all its abuse, so I choose to knowingly take it.
A name you should hear, in case you haven't, is that of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who spent all day Friday running back and forth between the two separate locations where the NHL and NHLPA were meeting, before spending all of Saturday bringing them together. Without him, it seems, a deal may not have gotten done. If you ever meet a man named Scot Beckenbaugh, buy him a beer.
As for whether or not the NHL and NHLPA have done irreparable damage to the game, I think Ron MacLean put it best yesterday: "A lot of Picasso's great paintings have been owned by crummy owners, but they remained Picassos."
So, time is short. Let's get down to brass tacks. This weekend (Sunday around 5:30 AM), the NHL and NHLPA tentatively agreed to a CBA proposal for a 2012-'13 hockey season. That proposal is currently being drafted into an official CBA, which will be voted on for approval by each party. The NHL's vote is scheduled for Wednesday, and I don't know when the PA votes (but it will also be this week). Once that passes, the season will officially be on, coaching staffs will be officially allowed to talk to players, etc.
Camps are therefore expected to start sometime in the Friday-to-Monday period and last about a week, with the first game of the season being, most likely, January 19. That should allow for a 48-game, inter-conference-only season. Let's see. Twice per intra-division opponent is 20 games, and 7 times per inter-division opponent is 28. That sounds about right to me. So expect to see our Atlantic Division opponents an extra time this year, even though the season itself is shorter.
The CBA's term is 10 years, with a mutual opt-out at year 8. So that means that we have until 2020 before this bullshit happens again. Which it will. A lot was worked out in these negotiations, some of which, like pensions, was very important to one party or the other, but is not at all interesting to us, as fans. Also, of course, the whole thing has not been released yet. But here are some of the main takeaways that we do care about.
(Grain of Salt Warning: Please note that all of these details are based on various second- and third-hand reports all over the Internet, and I have not confirmed and cannot confirm any of them until the new CBA is actually ratified and subsequently released to the public.) With that said, here's what I think we know so far.
The salary cap for this season will remain exactly where it was last season (pro-rated to the shortened length of the season), $70.2 million. It will be lowered for the 2013-'14 season, down to $64.3 million, and will then grow steadily from there. However, a new rule (colloquially, and appropriately, "The Redden Rule") prevents cap circumvention through salary burial in the AHL. Any players on one-way NHL contracts, even those in the AHL, will count against the cap (minus some nominal amount, like the first $250,000 or something). The salary floor will remain at (pro-rated) $44 million for each seasons.
To help comply with the new rules, each team will be allocated a total of two compliance buyouts that must be used within the next two seasons. These buyouts will follow the same monetary rules as other buyouts, except that none of them will count against the cap. Expect Redden's contract to be bought out almost as quickly as Scott Gomez's is.
Finally, some new contract rules were put in place to combat the Kovaltract. No new contract may be any longer than 7 years - or 8, if the player is re-signing with his own team. That's still a couple of years longer than I'd have liked, but it's a start. Additionally, no contract may vary from one year to the next by more than 35%, and, most restrictively, no single year of a contract may be worth any less than 50% of the contract's most expensive year.
That's all I've got for now - I'll look more into the Rangers' situation specifically soon, when there's an actual CBA to base it on. Right now it's all hearsay, so I'm not diving too deep.
HOLY SHIT HOCKEY IS BACK AND I AM EXACTLY AS EXCITED AS I EXPECTED TO BE.
That is all.