Where are we at with the big ball of wax negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA?

Some definitions of the alphabet soup might be useful:

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NHL and the players association (NHLPA) currently under discussion is technically an extension to the existing agreement which runs out in two years in the offseason of 2022. Any changes or new rules negotiated now will take effect immediately, but it’s safe to assume this new deal will be based heavily on the existing agreement.

The Memo of Understanding (MOU) the two sides are working on will be a document that sets out their new changes, but they likely won’t actually weave that together with the unchanged elements from the old CBA in a formal document due to time constraints.

All of this is tied in with the Return to Play (RTP) protocols for Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (actual game play), and the expectation is all of these things will be voted on at once by both sides.

NHL and NHLPA set to make a CBA deal of the century

And now we turn, as you all should, to Bob McKenzie for a status report:

The negotiation continues Friday, July 3, and when the negotiating committees sign off on the proposal it will go to a vote of the Board of Governors and the full player membership.

Tentative Timeline

All dates will get pushed back if that becomes necessary, either through delays in finalizing the agreement or because of unforeseen complications.

  • Phase 3 will start on July 13 with players reporting to training camp in their home cities./

There have been reports that the number of players arriving at the voluntary Phase 2 training has risen in the last few days as players decide this is really happening.

  • Teams will report to the hub cities (still not formally confirmed to be Edmonton and Toronto) on July 26. /

No confirmed details are available yet on the rules and procedures for the so-called cohort quarantine the Canadian government has signed off on to allow this.

  • Phase 4 will start on August 1/

There are unconfirmed reports of some exhibition games being played, which would fit in between the reporting to the hub, and the start of the first segment of play. The first segments of actual games that count are the best-of-five qualifying round games, and the round robin games for the top four teams in each hub.

  • Second Draft Lottery will occur immediately after the qualifying round is over, and the eight teams entering the lottery are known. That date would fall in the August 10-12 range./

NHL 2nd Draft Lottery FAQ

  • The plan is for the subsequent best-of-seven playoff rounds in the usual format to take until early October to complete, with the Stanley Cup awarded sometime around when next season would have normally been starting.
  • The Entry Draft will be held very soon after the Cup is awarded.
  • Free Agent Day will be November 1, as the current extension of contracts runs to October 31/

As we learned this week, the two sides did not agree to delay signing bonus payments, so while November 1 would become the start of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, some of the fiscal part has already taken place. The writing is on the wall for game play for next season to start in early 2021.

All rules and procedures for all of these stages exist now as rumours and speculation only.


As little as three days ago, there were reports that Olympic participation was not going to be part of this negotiation. Subsequent reports have said the agreement under discussion includes an international calendar that would allow NHL participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The intersection of the new NHL schedule and the European and general IIHF schedules is going to be an ongoing story. All top European leagues are scheduled to begin their 2020-2021 season before the Stanley Cup is awarded for 2020. They will be more than halfway to the end of their seasons before the NHL starts up again, but the current transfer agreements were written when that time lag between the two calendars was very different.

European draft prospects will be playing league games by the time they’re drafted.

CBA Changes

It has been widely reported that the salary cap will be frozen at the current level, or will rise only slightly over the next three years. Escrow and an as-yet speculative salary deferral on top of escrow will greatly reduce the actual pay received by players in the coming season(s). It will be at least 2022 before we know the final accounting on next season and how these deferrals worked out. The current season’s accounting won’t be finalized before sometime in 2021 at the earliest. All of this process involves hazarding guesses well in advance of a changing reality. The chances this will need to be tweaked in the future are very high.

Expect some other rules around salary structure, but the likelihood of sweeping changes to NHL rules seems very low. One expected rule will limit the amount of signing bonuses and backloading and frontloading of contracts.

Voting Process

McKenzie clarified something as well: there will be no compliance buyouts. Teams suffering cap crunches will just have to sort those out by finding a friendly team operating below the cap and making a trade.

And that’s the state of affairs for now, and I for one am amused to see the NHL working on the American holiday for a change. And I look forward to the November Free Agent day to provide us with the opportunity to post news headed by pictures of players in Halloween costumes. There have to be some bright sides to all this unprecedented scheduling.

Saturday morning update on voting procedure:

After a marathon week of bargaining, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are closing in on a tentative memorandum of understanding on an all-encompassing new six-year Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as all of the necessary Return to Play components to drop the puck on a 24-team play-in.

The MOU would need to be ratified by both the NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s full membership. A player vote could begin electronically as soon as Monday if an agreement is announced on Saturday; players will have 72 hours to vote.

There are more i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed. But the deal is believed to be imminent and multiple stakeholders in the NHL community have now been apprised of the details.

There are now, fairly solid rumours of the contents of the CBA in post linked above. We’ll cover this when we have actual confirmation.