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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

NHL and PA close to ratifying their Collective Agreement. Maybe now they can RADify the summer

Let’s start off with the announcements…

 

 

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Cool. Hockey is coming back. There won’t be a labour disruption in a couple of years, and the summer return to play is being handled in the two safest city options left. The only disappointment here is that we don’t get treated to an Edmonton meltdown over not being selected as a hub city.

I can’t think of a better Canada Day present than giving Canadians hockey for the foreseeable future.

Of that begs the question, what is actually in this deal?

So the players got their Olympics back. That was a big deal to them. Maybe too big a deal, as you’ll see from the other stuff below the players gave up a lot in order to keep hockey going. Of course this means we can speculate if Tavares, Marner, Muzzin, and Rielly will be on Team Canada, or if Nylander, Sandin, Johnsson, and Liljegren can make Team Sweden. We’ll assume that players like Barabanov, Mikheyev, Andersen, Kapanen also have some vested interest in this, while the biggest speculation about Matthews will probably be if he wears the C for the United States or not. Anyway, a lot of the Leafs roster could potentially be involved in the Olympics, and that’s why it matters. Personally, I’d rather have the Olympics than the World Cup so this is a win for fans as well.

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So right off the bat we can see that there isn’t going to be much extra money to go around and given that the league is expanding next season this seems like a time when the cap would normally shoot up. The flat cap isn’t the kiss of death many are making it out to be, largely because Seattle will chip away at the contracts around the league next year, and the cap hasn’t been inflating ridiculously over the past couple of years anyway. The players gain a bit of certainty over escrow not going completely off the deep end, so that’s a win for the players as well, I guess.

Deferring salary is a huge give from the players, and perhaps this will come with the announcement of a shortened season for 2021 that might make up for that. The fact that players can opt out of the return to play this summer is another small victory for the players, but I’m not sure how much of that we’ll see in a league driven by peer pressure. You could see the benefit for players like Tyson Barrie or Cody Ceci deciding to opt out so they can be healthy for whatever team signs them in free agency, but at the same time, do they want to give up the chance to win a cup, and what would opting out do to their value on the free agent market?

While we don’t know whether the NHL was victorious on the limits on signing bonuses and salary fluctuation pieces, that seems to be the NHL stubbornly doubling down on their unappealing league parity concept, and punishes teams like Toronto that rely on financial flexibility to level the playing field with teams that might have geographic or financial benefits. Moves like this prop up teams like the Senators at a time when the NHL should be pushing owners like Melnyk out.

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While this is the stuff we know, there is plenty we still don’t and it will be interesting to see what comes out over the next few days. The biggest one from a fan perspective is usually whether or not compliance buyouts are going to be brought back. That would certainly be a pleasant development, even if there doesn’t seem to be an immediate need for them on the Leafs.

Will the NHL do anything around player safety, mental health, or life after hockey? Probably not. This was a quick turnaround of a CBA, and a lot of the more progressive demands were probably discarded for the sake of keeping the sport going.

Based on what we know today, it’s the players, not the owners we should be grateful for in these negotiations as they didn’t ask for much, and got even less, all for the sake of keeping sport going and to maximize their short window of earning power.

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Hopefully Bob McKenzie’s time frame is correct and by Friday or Saturday we’ll know whether the deal has been ratified and we’ll get the updated dates for Phases 3 and 4, along with the confirmation of what is actually in the revised CBA.