Have a beer, hockey is here! Wonderful news for Blackhawk fans everywhere: Cold Steel on Ice is returning to the Mad House on Madison. Early Sunday morning the NHL and NHLPA announced they have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout and save the 2012-2013 season. The new collective bargaining agreement seeks to bring a decade of labor peace to professional hockey (although both sides have a mutual opt out clause after 8 years).
The new CBA has capped player contract lengths of 7 years (8 if you sign your own players). Year to year variance in contract salary is to be capped at 35 percent, and the last year's salary can't vary more than 50 percent from the highest-salaried year effectively ending the long back-loaded contracts that have became infamous in recent years used to sign players like Marian Hossa (12 year, $62.8 million). Salary cap in the first year of the agreement is $60 mil with a $44 mil floor. During the first year of the transition period teams will be allowed to spend $70.2 million. During the second year of the agreement the salary cap will be $64.3 million and the floor will remain at $44 million.
Perhaps most significant for hockey fans, the issue of NHL player participation in the Olympics has not been settled. This is a victory for those who hope to see hockey played at the highest level in the Sochi 2014 games. NHL Board of Governors had previously expressed a desire to ban their players from participating in the games during this CBA, something that outraged many of the leagues brightest Russian stars including Alex Ovechkin.
Depending on how quickly this deal can be ratified by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHL Players Association we are looking at either a 48 or 50 game regular season (the standard NHL regular season is 82 games). A 50 game regular season will start on January 15 while a 48 game regular season would start on Jan 19th according to ESPN.
More coming as this story develops throughout the day.