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FEATURE: Breaking Down the MOU

Amanda Stein takes a look at the Memorandum of Understanding for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement

by Amanda Stein amandacstein /

On Friday, July 10, 2020, the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association announced a Memorandum of Understanding on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). 

The new deal will carry through to the 2025-26 season, providing labor peace for the next six years. The deal was announced alongside the league's Return to Play plan, that will see the League back on the ice this summer in hopes of awarding the Stanley Cup.

Video: 1-ON-1 | CBA discussion with Tom Fitzgerald

We dissected the 71-page MoU and have outlined several changes made between the League and the NHLPA. 

From a return to the Olympics, to the 2020 Draft date, and when next season will start, the following is relevant info in addition to changes from the prior CBA: 

Critical Dates

The NHL Critical Dates calendar so rarely sees changes but due to the pandemic, events like the Entry Draft and Free Agency will shift these dates. The League and Players Union have agreed upon a new Critical Dates calendar that will help General Managers plan out their next moves. 

The off-season calendar will look as follows with all dates subject to change:

Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft (must follow end of Cup Final and take place before free agency)

While the Devils brass know they will be selecting 7th at the Entry Draft, the team to select first overall remains vacant. The second phase of the Draft Lottery will be held on August 10th

Mid-Oct.: Free-agent period opens (official date TBD)

For the New Jersey Devils, there are three players on the current roster who will be free agents: forward Kevin Rooney and defensemen Fredrik Claesson and Dakota Mermis. 

Nov. 17: Training camps open for the 2020-21 season

Dec. 1: 2020-21 NHL season begins

As for the 2020-21 NHL season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the expectation is to play a full 82-game season, despite the late start to the year. 

Return to Play

While the Devils won't be involved in the Return to Play format, the NHL and Players Union released several agreed-upon details. 

Training camps opened on Monday, July 13th and teams are scheduled to arrive in their designated hub cities on July 26th. The Eastern Conference teams will relocate to Toronto, Canada, while the Western Conference will report to Edmonton, Canada. 

The league will host exhibition games between July 28th and 30th and start the Stanley Cup Qualifiers (aka Phase 4) on August 1st

On August 11th, the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin. The second round is scheduled to start on August 25th, the Conference Finals on September 8th and September 22nd for the Stanley Cup Final series. 

The last possible date to award the Stanley Cup will be on October 4th, before the league moves into their off-season calendar. 

Free Agency, Back to a Frenzy

There has been one slight change to Free Agency going forward under the new agreement. The format returns to its old model, eliminating the 'free agent interview period'. This interview period was a three-day window where teams could talk to upcoming free agents, technically still under contract with other clubs (deals expire on June 30th). Teams and players could have deals already worked out, only to be announced on July 1st

That will no longer be the case, returning to players and clubs only able to open talks as of July 1st

No-Trade Stays

When Devils defenseman P.K. Subban was a Montreal Canadien, the team traded him to Nashville just days before his negotiated No-Trade Clause kicked in. In the prior version of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the trade to Nashville negated the no-trade that was originally agreed upon between Subban and the Canadiens. Under the new arrangement, the no-trade clause would remain in place with the new team. 

In this particular scenario, under this new CBA, Nashville would have had to 'take on' and honor the no-trade clause in Subban's original contract. 

Entry-Level Contracts

The two sides have negotiated new details on Entry-Level Contracts which is the contract NHL rookies, 25 years old and younger, sign upon their entry into the league.

This past season, the minimum salary a player could make on their entry-level deal was $700,000, which will remain the same in 2020-21. The minimum will jump then jump to $750,000 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons and increase once again to $775,000 the following three seasons. 

When it comes to the Entry-Level maximum salary per year, the Entry-Level league maximum per year (not including bonus') is $925,000 until 2022 when it will jump to $950,000 for two seasons. 

It will once again see an increase, to $975,000 for the 2024 and 2025, before reaching $1,000,000 in 2026. 

35+ Contracts

Signing an NHL contract at the age of 35 and older was always a tricky scenario. Would the player retire before the contract was up? It certainly is a possibility in an increasingly younger man's game. Prior to the current CBA Memorandum of Understanding, those 35+ contracts would remain "on the books" and count towards the salary cap, regardless of whether the player was playing or not. In the newest agreement, '35+ contracts' will no longer count against the cap once the player retires. 

The only caveat to this scenario is that the contract yearly value increases or remains the same for the remainder of the contract. The cap hit would remain if the contracts were backloaded where the end of the contract is worth more than the prior years. 

Travis Zajac is the only player on the current roster who is 35 years old. His current contract has one more deal at a $5.75 million value. His next contract would fall under these new guidelines. 

Conditional Picks

One other change as part of the new CBA is the elimination of a certain type of conditional pick. In the past, sending a player from one team to the other could have a conditional pick attached to it should Player X re-sign with the team he has been traded to. Now, that will no longer be legal under the new terms. 

This has been a common league practice when dealing with upcoming UFA's. The Devils have attached a conditional pick with the Coyotes in the Taylor Hall trade, should he re-sign with Arizona, the Devils would receive an extra pick. This new rule applies only to new trades and will not affect those trades already involving those types of Conditional Picks.

Olympic Bound

The last time NHL players participated in the Winter Olympic Games was in Russia at the 2014 Games. NHL players did not participate in the 2018 games, but that will once again change. The NHL and PA have agreed to send the players to the Olympics for the 2022 and 2026 games in Beijing and Italy respectively pending an agreement with the International Olympic Committee. 

Several players on the Devils roster would likely be in discussion to make their Olympic team rosters, namely Nico Hischier who is a star player for the Swiss National Team. Jesper Bratt would likely be considered for the Swedish national team, while Nikita Gusev could compete for a spot for Russia. 

Most recently Mackenzie Blackwood and Damon Severson have played for Team Canada at the World Championships, while Jack Hughes and Cory Schneider played for Team USA. 

Olympic teams have far more competition to make the final roster, but these players will likely be in contention. Hischier should be a lock to make the Swiss national team, barring injury. 

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