(Mary Altaffer/Associated Press) Welcome back, NHL.


After more than 16 consecutive hours of bargaining on the 113th day of the lockout, the NHL and NHLPA reached a tentative agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement at 4:45 a.m. Sunday.  

“We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during a news conference, standing next to NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.

“We’ve got to dot a lot of I’s and cross a lot of T’s,” Bettman said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

The deal still requires ratification from the players and the NHL’s Board of Governors before it becomes official, but the league is expected to play a 50- or 48-game season that starts no later than Jan. 19.

“Hopefully within a very few days,” Fehr told reporters in New York, “The fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us.”

The agreement is for a 10-year deal, with a mutual opt-out clause after eight. It includes a seven-year limit on player contract length — eight for players to re-sign with their same team – and a 35 percent year-to-year variance aimed at preventing back diving contracts.

The 2013-14 salary cap, which was a key sticking point in the final days of negotiations, will reportedly be set at $64.3 million with a floor of $44 million. In order to be in compliance with the salary cap, teams will each be allowed to make two compliance buyouts prior to the 2013-14 season according to Chris Johnson of the Canadian Press.

“We understand the nature of professional sports has kind of changed in the last couple of CBAs with football and basketball and, obviously, hockey. That’s the way it’s been going for the last 10 years,” Phoenix’s Shane Doan told reporters in New York. So, you knew you were in that position and I think as a union we got the best deal we could possibly get and you’re happy. You just excited to get to play hockey again and do what you really enjoy and have a passion for.”  

Talks intensified in late December and the two sides exchanged four proposals in six days, but as distrust threatened to derail the process late this week it took a third party to put it back on a path to a deal. Federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh helped to start bridging the final gaps by meeting with both the NHL and NHLPA separately for roughly 12 hours on Friday and on Saturday he brought the two sides together at 12:45 p.m. for the beginning of the marathon session that led to an agreement.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued a statement offering congratulations to the NHL and NHLPA for reaching an agreement and praising the “extraordinary contribution” of Beckenbaugh.

“The negotiated agreement represents the successful culmination of a long and difficult road in which the parties ultimately were able to reach mutually acceptable solutions to a wide variety of contentious subjects of bargaining,” Cohen said in the statement. “Of course, the agreement will pave the way for the professional players to return to the ice and for the owners to resume their business operations. But the good news extends beyond the parties directly involved; fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite past time and thousands of working men and women and small businesses will no longer be deprived of their livelihoods.”



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