Lesser known gains for NHL players in the new CBA

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Washington Capitals hockey star Alex Ovechkin works out at the team's facility in Arlington, Virginia January 8, 2013.

(Reuters)

Plenty has been written about some of the more well known aspects of the new CBA like the make whole, pension plan, player share and the like.

What we haven’t seen is some of the more basic nitty-gritty details because, in large part, a lot of them aren’t available.

While both sides continue to hammer away on getting the finalized legal language of the deal put together so ratification votes can be held by owners and players later this week, some of that info is finally beginning to filter out.

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Among the tidbits are some pretty nice little wins for players amidst the rubble:

- The minimum salary in the NHL will eventually progress up rather sharply, going from $525,000 this season to $650,000 by 2017-18 and ultimately $750,000 by 2021-22. It’ll increase in relatively small increments until 2017, however.

- The money that goes to players on winning playoff teams has basically doubled from $6.5-million last season. There will be $13-million put into the playoff pool for each of the next two seasons, and that figure will rise by another $1-million every two seasons, culminating in $17-million in 2020-21 and beyond.

You always hear players don’t get paid in the playoffs, but that’s not true. For one, they receive 50 per cent of all hockey-related revenue, not just regular-season revenue, and part of the player share under benefits is allocated to this pool money, which will see a member of teams that go deep in the playoffs get a nice little bonus. I was told members of the winning Los Angeles Kings team, for example, received something like $75,000 each, money that would likely double under the new agreement.

It’s not much, but it helps pay for the after-party anyway.

- Another interesting one: Getting rid of re-entry waivers could really help some players on the fringe. Previously, those that were making more than $105,000 in the AHL had to pass through re-entry, which made teams reluctant to recall players in that situation and players reluctant to sign for more than that amount.

Expect to see higher salaries in general for guys in the AHL who are on the bubble. Call this the Mike Zigomanis (or Keith Aucoin or Wade Flaherty, etc.) rule.

- Another thing is that players’ full salaries cannot be buried in the minors or Europe anymore. Anything over the minimum salary plus $375,000 will count against the salary cap. Teams’ mistakes will now cost them dearly.

Call this the Wade Redden (or Jeff Finger) rule.

- While there is now a strict variance rule to prevent extreme frontloading, backloading deals are still permitted. Basically the old CBA’s loose variance rule applies, not the restrictive new one, which limits the lowest season in a deal to 50 per cent of the highest.

What’s a back-loaded deal? Well, if you look at contracts like Eric Staal’s with the Carolina Hurricanes, that qualifies.

The technical definition in the new CBA will be that a front-loaded deal is “where the average compensation of the first half of the contract is greater than the cap hit.”

- Another relatively big but very subtle win was in arbitration, where teams are now not allowed to walk away from an award of less than $3.5-million. This amount will also increase as the average salary does.

- Players will also now be able to receive no movement or no trade clauses that come into effect immediately when they sign a contract extension, not when the new deal begins.

- It’s worth noting all of these changes don’t necessarily come at huge cost to the teams. The players’ share will be 50 per cent, regardless of how high the various minimums rise, and all these various items mainly just change who is allocated the money.

That said, things like minor league salaries (below the new threshold) are dollars outside of that share, so spending in that area could certainly increase for teams that can afford to load up their AHL squads.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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