NHL lockout: Tentative deal in place to end lockout

After nearly four months of labor negotiations and no hockey, a new collective bargaining agreement has been tentatively reached.

"We have reached an agreement of a framework of a new CBA," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said early Sunday morning.

"Any process like this is difficult; it can be long," Donald Fehr echoed. "[But] we have the framework of a deal."

After a 16-hour negotiation session that started early Saturday ended around 5 a.m. ET on Sunday came the news that we have all been waiting 113 days for; there is a deal -- tentatively -- in place, and NHL hockey is coming back. 

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With only a few days left to get a deal done or to have another season get canceled altogether for the second time in eight years, the NHL and NHLPA started working toward a deal harder than at any point in the process, with a few marathon sessions in a row.

The resurgence of meetings and the optimism that began to flow on Saturday was largely due to the presence of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh. If you're looking for a lockout hero, a person who saved us from the burning building that was the NHL, he's as good a candidate as any.

After a couple of days of shuttling back and forth between the two sides, Beckenbaugh convinced them to come together for a face-to-face meeting, thus beginning the marathon meeting that led to a deal. So in the end, mediation worked, after all.

It's worth noting that a deal is not officially done. It still must be ratified by everybody involved. 

As the new CBA takes shape, key details are emerging about the biggest sticking points at issue.

Perhaps the best news in all of it for hockey fans? The length is going to be 10 years with an opt out after eight.

Here are other details in the new deal:

  Player contracts will be capped at seven seasons for free agents, eight years for players who re-sign with their teams;

  The salary cap in the second year (2013-14) will be $64.3 million while the salary floor will be $44 million;

  The year-to-year contract variance will be 35 percent, but the lowest season can't be more than 50 percent less than the highest season to avoid back-diving contracts;

  Each team will be allowed two amnesty buyouts before the 2013-14 season, which will count against the players' share;

  Revenue sharing will now include $200 million with a $60 million growth fund;

  The draft lottery will change so that any team in the lottery can win the No. 1 overall pick, not be restricted in how far it can move up;

  The appeals process for supplemental discipline will still go through Bettman, but a neutral third party will weigh in on suspensions of six games or more;

  There will be no more salary arbitration walkways on deals less than $3.5 million;

  Minimum salaries for NHL players will start at $525,000 and reach $750,000 by CBA's end.

As for Olympic participation? We heard nothing about it during the negotiations because it wasn't settled in the new CBA.

You can pretty much expect the players will be headed to Sochi, Russia in 2014 for the Games, especially since NBC owns the rights to broadcast both the NHL and the Olympics.

Some other facets of the new deal were expected, such as the split of the hockey-related revenue to 50-50 between the players and the owners, with $300 million in the "make whole" proposal from the owners to pay the players the full value of their contract. Hey, does anybody remember when we all believed the HRR split was going to be the toughest issue in the negotiations?

As to other details, such as when the season will start and how many games will be played, we'll have to wait and see. But there's a chance that it will be 50 games instead of the previously speculated 48. Figure on a week of training camps, and then it will be game-on.

At long last, it will be game-on.

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