Formal negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA for next season are set to begin on Friday, with a new Collective Bargain Agreement expected by the end of the day.
OK, now that the comedy's out of the way, we can focus on economics. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star notes that the two sides have agreed on a salary cap number for the 2012-13 season:
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr emerged from three days of meetings with players in Chicago to name a 31-member bargaining committee on the eve of talks with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York. Full negotiations will start Friday, according to sources.
There was word that the NHL and NHLPA had reached agreement on a $70.2 million salary cap for next year — at least under the terms of the current, expiring CBA.
Jesse Spector of The Sporting News explains why this will produce more head-scratching from GMs this summer:
For large-market teams, always the most active on July 1, this presents a conundrum. Almost nobody in hockey believes that the 2012-13 season will be played with a $70.3 million salary cap, but the extra space above the $64.3 million figure for this past season, not to mention the annual 10 percent summer allowance for teams over the cap, means that there is a lot of room to add payroll now—even if that room does not exist when next season begins.
Fehr has suggested that the NHL could play games next season under the terms of the current CBA. But the uncertainty of the salary cap has agent Rick Curren telling the National Post that there could be a chilling effect on some free agents:
"I think there will be a large group of players who will have to sit on the side and wait for the new collective bargaining agreement," Curran said. "But I think the majority of clubs, if they've got a couple of holes to fill, and you have a couple of players in mind that they'd like to fill those holes with, I think they'd sign those players."
The fun begins on July 1.