NHL and NHLPA Make Temporary Changes to CBA Amid COVID Issues

The NHL and NHLPA put out a press release yesterday (December 26) announcing that they had made temporary changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the parties.

One of the major changes, which come as a response to the COVID issues that have hit the league, players and staff in the past few weeks, is the reintroduction of Taxi Squads.

The Taxi Squads will be temporary from December 26 (this is “subject to Holiday Roster Freeze restrictions” according to the NHL and NHLPA’s press release) through the All-Star Break – more specifically, a team’s last game prior to the 2022 All-Star Break.

Following the All-Star Break, teams will dissolve their Taxi Squad and recall or reassign players

The Taxi Squads will have a maximum of six players assigned to them. The press release says that assignments to the Taxi Squads “will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable.” In addition, no “individual Players may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.”

While on the Taxi Squad, the press release notes that players will travel and practice with the NHL team. The protocol, however, states that they “can only play in an NHL Game if recalled and placed on the NHL Club’s Active Roster before such NHL Game (and no later than the appropriate 5:00 p.m. deadline).”

Not all of the players placed on the Taxi Squad will be required to travel to all aways games, the league does recommend “that a sufficient number of Taxi Squad Players travel with the Club to ensure an adequate number of Players for Recalls as may be necessary.”

The NHL and NHLPA further announced other temporary changes to the CBA. These are effective December 26, 2021 and run through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season.

(Keep in mind that I am translating these points – as well as the above – from legalese, a language I do not speak. Hopefully I am getting the right points here).

Teams can recall players for their rosters for emergency purposes if their average salaries are no more than $1,000,000 (before performance bonuses). The press release does note that “any Performance Bonuses earned by a Player recalled pursuant ot Section 50.10(e) shall be included in determining a Club’s Performance Bonus Overage for the 2022-23 season.”

Goalies can be recalled immediately should a team have less than two goalies on their active roster injured or sick and cannot play in the team’s next scheduled game. The recalled goalie can be recalled without having to dress for the previous game.

This will apply to goalies getting hurt or sick during an NHL game.

The last point from the press release addresses roster size for forwards and defensemen.

Should a team have less than 12 forwards and six defensemen on their active roster who can play in the next scheduled regular season game, and the press release notes that this is only if they cannot play due to COVID Protocol, the team can recall players without “having to play the previous game with fewer than 18 skaters.”

The players recalled will fill the “deficient positions” the release says.

I think I got all of that. The NHL and NHLPA do have the full documents for the changes to the CBA posted online and, I believe, through the NHL App, should anyone want to get specifics or clarification on anything I may have misinterpreted.

We will be back with coverage of day two of the 2022 World Junior Championship later tonight.

CBA Ratified by NHL, NHLPA

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association today made official that they have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement valid through the 2025-26 season.

Tom Gulitti, writing on NHL.com, said that the new agreement includes, among other things, a return to play in Toronto and Edmonton beginning on August 1.

Gulitti quoted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as saying: “Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season, and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our league. I thank NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, the more than 700 NHL players – particularly those who worked on our Return to Play Committee – and the NHL’s Board of Governors for coming together under extraordinary circumstances for the good of our game. While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month, and that has been our goal since we paused our season on March 12.”

Fehr also thanked “Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL staff for their efforts towards finding solutions to the problems we face.” He also echoed the sentiment that it is great for the game to get back to playing and finishing the season.

Phase 3, according to Gulitti, will begin this Monday (July 13) in qualifying teams’ local markets. Gulitti says the teams will then travel to the Edmonton and Toronto, the two hub cities, on July 26. The Eastern Conference teams will play out of Toronto while the Western Conference teams will be located in Edmonton. Play in those cities will begin August 1, which begins Phase 4.

The qualifying round will see the eight teams play a best-of-five series against their opponents, while the top two teams in each of the four divisions will play each other in a round-robin style mini tournament to determine seeding for them.

Once the play-in best-of-fives are done, the playoffs will begin proper. Eastern series will take place in Toronto and be best-of-seven and Western series will take place in Edmonton and also be best-of-seven.

Both Conference Finals will take place in Edmonton and be best-of-seven and the Stanley Cup Final will also be best-of-seven in Edmonton. According to Gulitti, the Conference Finals will begin September 8 and the Stanley Cup Final will start on September 22 “and will end no later than Oct. 4.”

The Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery will be held on August 10 after the play-in best-of-fives are over. Gulitti says that the “eight teams eliminated from the qualifiers will have an equal chance (12.5 percent) at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.” Once all of that is set, the NHL Draft will be held on October 9 and 10. Free agency will commence once the Draft is over, although Gulitti did not specify an exact date for that.

The CBA also includes the NHL All-Star Game, NHL Winter Classic and NHL Stadium Series all to be played. Also, Gulitti mentioned an “international calendar and events including the Winter Olympics.” So, NHL players will be returning to the Olympics after taking the 2018 PyeongChang Games off.

On the Olympics, Gulitti said that the players will return at the 2022 Beijing Games and will be competing at the 2026 Milano Cortina Games. This is “pending agreements being reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.”

On the financial end of things, Gulitti reports that “the NHL salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season with provisions for it to increase incrementally in the following seasons if hockey-related revenue reaches certain thresholds.”

For the players, he said that “escrow (the percentage withheld from player salaries and placed in an account used to calculate a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue) will be capped at 20 percent for the 2020-21 season, 14-18 percent in 2021-22, 10 percent in 2022-23, and 6 percent in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.” He added that “a year will automatically be added to the CBA, through the 2026-27 season and expiring Sept. 15, 2027, if after the 2024-25 season the players’ escrow debt exceeds $125 million but is less than $250 million.”

Other financial notes include: players deferring “10 percent of their salaries for the 2020-21 season that will be paid out in equal installments over three seasons beginning in 2022-23.” The playoff bonus pool will be doubled from $16 to $32 million. Gulitti says that “the compensation to each player will increase each round.”

Minimum salary in the NHL “will increase from $700,000 to $750,000 in 2021-22 and 2022-23, and $775,000 in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.” Likewise, “the maximum entry-level salary will increase from $925,000 for 2019, 2020 and 2021 NHL Draft picks to $950,000 for 2022 and 2023 NHL Draft picks, $975,000 for 2024 and 2025 NHL Draft picks, and $1 million for 2026 NHL Draft picks.”

It goes without saying that getting a new CBA in place and avoiding labor problems in the next few years is great. Too many hockey games have been canceled in the last 25 years or so due to lockouts (and a brief player strike in 1991-92 as well). It is great that the NHL and the NHLPA could come to an agreement to do away with any future problems. Getting the season restarted seems just a happy byproduct of the whole thing.