Flyers chairman Ed Snider received just about the best present he could ask for on Sunday morning, as he celebrates his 80th birthday.
Hockey is back in Philadelphia.
After an epic, 16-hour bargaining session that began Saturday afternoon, embattled leaders Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr emerged from a Manhattan hotel lobby bearing news that the start of a shortened season is right around the corner.
“This is the best wake up call I’ve ever had,” Flyers star Claude Giroux told the Daily News early Sunday morning. “It’s good to see that the game is back.”
The tentative agreement, reached some time around 4:45 a.m. on Sunday after a 113-day lockout, still needs to be ratified by a majority of the NHL’s Board of Governors and 740 players.
Details on scheduling and timing depend on ratification. Multiple reports suggested week-long training camps will open by Wednesday, with a 48 or 50-game season on the way, possibly as soon as Jan. 15.
That means we are less than two weeks away from the Flyers’ commencing their next crack at a 38-year Stanley Cup drought. The Flyers last played a game on May 8, when they were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round against New Jersey. The team has not yet provided any information on tickets.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported last week that the Flyers are likely to open the season hosting the Penguins - whom Giroux knocked out of the playoffs with a thunderous shoulder check last April - on Jan. 19 at 1 o’clock at the Wells Fargo Center in a nationally televised grudge match. A 48 or 50-game shortened schedule would likely include inter-conference only matchups.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported a 50-game season would likely begin on Jan. 15, a 48-game season on Jan. 19.
“We’ll be talking to the fans, most importantly, but at this point in time, we still have some work to do,” Bettman told reporters. “But it’s good to be at this point. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”
During the last lockout-shortened season in 1994-95, the Flyers broke a five-year playoff drought and advanced to the conference finals on the back of Eric Lindros’ Hart Trophy-winning year.
Here are a few important nuggets from the NHL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement:
> The best news is that we won’t have to do this again for a while. The new CBA is 10 years in length, expiring after the 2021-22 season, with each side holding an opt-out clause after 8 years.
> The salary cap in the first year of the deal will be flexible, with the previously set $70.2 million cap ceiling operating as a guide. The cap will drop to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season, up from $60 million as proposed by the NHL earlier this week. That’s good news for the Flyers, who won’t need to do too much chopping to get down to that number. The Flyers have approximately $57 million committed to 16 players for 2013-14.
> We should call the shortened season Ilya Bryzgalov's last chance to persuade the Flyers he should stay in Philadelphia. That's because all NHL teams will be equipped with two compliance buyouts, also known as contract amnesties, to buy players out of their deal to get to the new salary cap number. No players may be bought out during the shortened season, though they must be bought out prior to the 2013-14 season. Buyouts will cost two-thirds of what's remaining on a player's deal. For Bryzgalov, that would mean approximately $22.77 million to buy out the remaining 7 years of his deal.
> New player contracts are limited to 7 years in length, with teams being able to re-sign their own players to 8-year deals. Free agency will still begin on July 1.
> Contract salary variance will be capped at 35 percent for new deals, with the lowest-paid season not dropping below 50 percent of the value of the highest-paid season.
> The players received an entirely revamped pension plan, which is a big win since owners will now assume liability, and it will be setup in a style similar to the one baseball players receive.
> Divisional realignment will not take place until the 2013-14 season.
> All 14 teams which do not make the playoffs will have a crack at the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery process.
> Revenue sharing between teams will be amped up to $200 million, with a $60 million growth fund put in place.
> Olympic participation in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, by NHL players still needs to be worked out.
For now, many details need to be sorted out. Players need to return from overseas. Fans need to gear up for a sprint toward the Stanley Cup. Thankfully, a new deal will ensure that names will be engraved upon it this year.
“The negotiated agreement represents the successful culmination of a long and difficult road in which the parties ultimately were able to reach mutually acceptable solutions to a wide variety of contentious subjects of bargaining,” federal mediation and conciliation director George Cohen said in a statement. “Fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite pastime.”
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers