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July 8, 2005 - NHL labor deal appears near

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NHL labor deal appears near

Friday, July 8, 2005

By CHUCK GORMLEY
Courier-Post Staff


The NHL and its players have agreed in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement that will include a $37 million salary cap and a 24 percent rollback of existing contracts, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The six-year agreement, which would end a 10-month lockout by the owners, is expected to be announced Monday and will be followed by a ratification by the players.

Flyers captain Keith Primeau said Thursday that although the players made an enormous amount of concessions, he expects a quick ratification when it comes to a vote next week.

"The deal is not going to please every player," Primeau told the Courier-Post. "At this stage in the negotiations, players ultimately want to play and that pressure continues to mount. On that premise alone, the ratification may be just a formality."

Forfeiting an entire season for the first time in NHL history clearly benefited the owners.

In addition to the 24 percent rollback on existing salaries and a salary cap linked to 54 percent of league revenues, the new CBA is expected to include:

  • A provision that will limit the maximum player salary to 20 percent of his team's cap figure.

  • A provision in which 15 percent of each player's paycheck will go into an escrow account until league revenue is calculated after each season. If spending on salaries exceeds 54 percent of revenue, the difference will be paid to teams from the escrow account. If teams spend less than 54 percent, the escrow money will be returned to players.

  • A $37 million salary cap will not include medical and dental benefits and pension payments, but it will include signing and performance bonuses.

  • A $24 million salary floor.

  • A rookie salary cap of $850,000, with no signing or performance bonuses.

  • A minimum salary of $400,000.

  • Player participation in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin next February, shutting down the season for 18 days, and canceling the 2005-06 NHL All-Star Game.

  • An evenly weighted draft in which every team will have the same chance to nab forward Sidney Crosby, widely touted as the next Wayne Gretzky.

  • Unrestricted free agency granted at age 31 in the first year of the CBA, 30 the following year and 28 in the remaining four years.

    Player agent Rick Curran said he expects to receive documentation on the new deal Monday and that the Players' Association will have two or three days to review the material before staging a vote.

    Curran anticipates teams will have two weeks to buy out existing contracts and sign their 2003 and 2004 draft picks and restricted free agents. That would leave teams one month to sign unrestricted free agents and finalize roster spots for September training camp.

    The new deal will drastically alter the financial landscape of the NHL, dropping average salaries from $1.83 million to closer to $1 million.

    Primeau, for example, will have his $4.5 million salary knocked down to $3.42 million with the 24 percent rollback, then to $2.907 million with the 15 percent escrow. Meanwhile, Todd Fedoruk would actually benefit from the deal. His salary would increase from $380,000 to the NHL minimum.

    "The bottom line," Primeau said, "is that we'll be much happier making the money we're making than making no money at all."

    How will the new CBA impact the Flyers, who have 13 players under contract taking up $33.8 million in cap space?

    In all likelihood they will buy out the contracts of forwards John LeClair ($6.84 million) and Tony Amonte ($4.4 million) and might be even bold enough to buy out Jeremy Roenick's $4.94 million salary.

    That would leave Primeau as the Flyers' highest-paid player and free cap room for them to sign a high-profile unrestricted free agent defenseman such as Scott Niedermayer.

    "I think you'll see the entire league get younger," said Primeau, who is 33. "And we'll be no different."