Just after 5 a.m. in the East, on the 113th day of the NHL lockout, it is over: the National Hockey League is returning.
After 16 hours of marathon meetings Saturday and the wee hours of Sunday morning, a deal in principle has been reached.
"We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement," Commissioner Gary Bettman said at a joint news conference with NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr at 5:45 a.m. ET. "The details have to be put to paper. ... It's good to be at this point."
Added Fehr: "We'll get back to what we used to call business as usual as fast as we can."
Fehr said hopefully in a few days, fans can get back to watching people who can skate, not the two of them.
"Absolutely," said Bettman.
Here is a statement from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, who employs mediator (MVP) Scot Beckenbaugh, who got these folks back to the table and did hours of legwork and shuttling between sites to bridge the gap.
Both sides thanked Beckenbaugh over and over.
No details were officially given yet, but the next step is both sides have to ratify the, what I'm told is, 10-year collective bargaining agreement with a mutual opt-out after eight years. The upper limit for 2013-14 is $64.3 million. The floor remains at $44 million. Max contracts are seven years (eight to re-sign your own players). Two compliance buyouts for next season if a team wishes (doesn't count vs. cap; player share). $200 million revenue sharing. All 14 non-playoff teams will have a shot at the No. 1 pick. I believe there will be a free-agent courting period ala basketball (I've campaigned for this for years).
Olympics and realignment will be agreed upon at a later date between the two sides.
Cap for this year will be prorated $70.2 million, so the Wild is fine. All terms of contracts for existing players remain the same.
The original goal was to start training camp Jan. 12 and a 48-game, all-conference season Jan. 19 (Hockey Day Minnesota) if a collective bargaining agreement was reached by Jan. 11. But both sides were motivated to get a deal complete by the end of the weekend.
If ratification goes by quickly, training camp could start sooner with perhaps a 50-game season starting by Jan. 15, a source said. That means training camp could start this week.
In my opinion, that would make the division of the schedule more palatable for fans. While the league hasn’t said how it would divide the games, in a 50-game season, it would make sense that five games could be played vs. each division opponent (20 games) and three vs. each conference opponent (30 games).
In a 48-game season, there’s a chance that 28 of the 48 games would be played vs. four division opponents (seven each) and 20 games vs. the 10 other conference opponents (home and home).
The schedule could come later today.
Just in case training camp was on the horizon, the Wild pulled center Mikael Granlund from the Houston Aeros’ lineup against San Antonio after warmups Saturday night. General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild didn’t want to risk injury to Granlund, who would be slotted as the Wild’s No. 2 center in training camp.
Fletcher said he nearly pulled Granlund from Friday’s lineup against Texas but opted not to.
The league had reason to hammer out a deal. For the second time during the lockout, the majority of players voted to give NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr the authorization to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union if he so chooses. If the union were to dissolve, Fehr would have no longer represented the players and they could have filed antitrust lawsuits against the NHL seeking to have the lockout deemed illegal.
The two sides met late into the night Wednesday, but talks broke down Thursday when the players felt the league tried to slip language by them regarding penalties if teams under reported hockey-related revenue.
But tempers cooled and on Friday, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh spent 12 hours shuttling back and forth the 3 ½ blocks between NHL headquarters and the NHLPA hotel meeting separately with both parties.
That continued Saturday morning until Beckenbaugh brought both sides together for the marathon session.
The Wild will release the schedule as soon as it gets one and begin redistributing tickets. Single-game tickets will go on sale this week. Marketing campaign will be launched today as well as "Welcome Back" promotions.