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NHL, players reach tentative deal on new collective bargaining agreement

By By Helene Elliott

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Sunday, Jan. 6 2013 8:11 p.m. MST

The deal’s 10-year term (with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years) is longer than the NHLPA had wanted. The maximum length of player contracts will be seven years, with an exception permitting teams to re-sign their own free agents for eight years, and is longer than the NHL’s previously proposed five-year limit.

The salary cap for the 2013-14 season was set at $64.3 million, well above the NHL’s proposed $60 million but short of the union’s target of $65 million. The floor — the minimum each team must spend on payroll — will be $44 million. The salary cap for the upcoming season will be a prorated portion of the previously agreed-upon $70.2 million limit. Teams will be permitted to buy out two players’ contracts before the 2013-14 season without that money being counted against their salary cap.

Other pivotal elements, such as a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue and keeping the same terms for entry-level contracts and free agency, were previously negotiated. Some issues, including players’ participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, have not been settled.

“Hopefully, in a few days people can start watching people who are skating and not us,” Fehr told reporters in New York.

Said Bettman: “Absolutely.”

Many players who had signed with European teams to stay in shape during the lockout began scrambling to arrange transportation back to North America after the tentative agreement was announced. Kings captain Dustin Brown said he planned to fly home from Switzerland on Monday, and center Anze Kopitar — who sprained his right knee in a game for the Swedish team Mora IK on Saturday — was expected back in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

A resolution was never certain, even during the final days of talks. Tempers flared on Thursday, when the league introduced language that would have reduced penalties against teams that under-reported their hockey-related revenue, and players remained angry after the NHL withdrew that provision.

“It felt like driving your car on the edge of a cliff. We could still get to where we had to go, but at any moment we could fall off the edge,” said Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, a member of the players’ negotiating committee and participant in those final sessions.

“We are all extremely happy to have made it over the hill. It’s going to be a quick change out of our suits and into our skates, as well.”

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©2013 Los Angeles Times

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