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NHL lockout ends, but some questions remain


Louis Lanzano/THE CANADIAN PRESS The NHL lockout ended Sunday morning after 113 days. Shown, Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL PlayersAssociation, in a file photo.

Hockey is back, as the NHL and NHLPA have reached an agreement to end the lockout, but the new CBA is in the “tentative” stages until both the owners and the players have a chance to ratify it.

That process should take place no later than Tuesday. In the meantime, there remain several questions about the new, abbreviated season — when will it start? What will it look like? Here are the answers according to the details of the new agreement that have been released so far.

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Q: When did the lockout officially end?

A: News of the tentative deal first broke at 5:20 a.m. Sunday morning. The lockout lasted 113 days.

Q: How long is the new deal?

A: The new deal runs 10 years, with opt out provisions after eight years.

Q: When will the season begin?

A: If it’s a 50 game season, the puck drops Jan. 15; if it’s a 48 game season, the puck goes down Jan. 19.

Q: Is there a possibility for more games, say 52 to 55 games?

A: Possible, but not likely. Both sides put in that 17 hour negotiating session over the weekend with part of the focus on maximizing the number of games played. It’s believed at this point in time that maximum number is 50.

Q: When would the playoffs end?

A: About the time you’ll be preparing for summer vacation. It appears the playoff schedule and Stanley Cup final could go to the final weekend of June, if necessary. June 29 is a Saturday, June 30 a Sunday. If the series go seven games, then it’s conceivable the absolute final, game seven date of the Stanley Cup could run that far.

Q: The salary cap for the early years of the new deal appears complicated and confusing — how does the cap work out of the gate?

A: The cap for the first year is $ 60 million, with a floor of $ 44 million — but teams (like the Leafs) can spend up to $ 70.2 million. A central issue during bargaining was the cap ceiling for the second year (2013-14) — players wanted, stuck to and got $ 64.3 million.

Q: What is the result of the bargaining on the key issue of contract lengths?

A: Maximum contract lengths are now set at seven years, and eight if teams re-sign their own players.

Q: What happened to the salary variance issue over the weekend?

A: It appears the owners really made significant moves on this detail. Late last week, the owners moved twice on salary variance, raising it first from five to 10 per cent, then from 10 to 20 per cent. In the final push to get the deal done this weekend, it wound up at 35 per cent year to year.

Q: What is the final detail on revenue sharing?

A: Revenue sharing comes in at $ 200 million; there’s a player initiated Industry Growth Fund that will add an additional $ 60 million.

Q: Pension was the central issue for players — did that get resolved?

A: There is still work to be done on pensions, and the language is far from finalized — the issue ballooned over the degree of liability on both sides, but the framework is there, and will be voted on this week.

Q: How many buyouts are there in the amnesty provision, and when do they need to be used by?

A: There are two compliance buyouts; and they must be used no later than the next two summers. There is an option to use both of them immediately.

Q: What will the agreement be between the NHL and the major junior leagues regarding called up junior age players?

A: Details have not yet been released: players like Morgan Reilly and David Broll will be in Leafs camp. However, the question remains how long they can remain in NHL before their season becomes official (or returned to junior).

Q: Will NHL players be participating in the Sochi Olympics?

A: Most likely. That issue will be settled outside the new CBA. The IHF and the IOC will meet with the NHL to discuss details, but it’s expected the NHL will elect to have its players in Russia.

Q: Is there a new order for the draft lottery?

A: It’s expected all 14 non-playoff teams will be in the lottery, which is a potentially exciting new order compared to the previous, five team lottery. It may also generate more hard feelings since the lowest finishing teams will likely lose the probability they had at the first overall pick under the old lottery. The lottery balls will likely be weighted in accordance to order of finish, but there is no restriction on how high a team can move.

Q: What happens to free agency dates?

A: They remain at July 1, though the league wanted that date moved to July 10. There may be a change in the date this summer, after the abbreviated season, especially if the playoffs run into the last week of June.

Q: When will training camps open?

A: Ratification votes likely wrap up by Wednesday; camps open as early as Wednesday, no later than Jan. 12.

Q: What is the wild card in all of this?

A: Most definitely the compliance buyouts. There are several big names on the buyout block, including Roberto Luongo — and those players become free agents if they are bought out. That is of immediate concern to the Leafs and their fans — Luongo is expected to be traded to the Leafs almost immediately. However, a buyout of his contract in Vancouver removes a $ 5.3 million per season cap hit, and that is of huge concern to a Vancouver team that is near the cap ceiling already, and has several pending UFA’s coming up this season and next.

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