After 113 days of lockout, the NHL and the league’s players association reached a tentative agreement on the framework of a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement at 4:45 AM this morning following a 16-hour negotiating session. The deal still must be ratified by the players and the NHL’s Board of Governors, but an abbreviated season of 48-50 games is expected to start by January 19. The number of games lost to the NHL lockout is 625, or 50.8% of the regular season that was to begin October 11, including the NHL All-Star Game. The pact brings relief to NBC, which signed a record $2 billion, 10-year TV rights deal with the NHL last year, with hockey a major programming plank in its nascent NBC Sports Network. Over the past several months, networks had to repeatedly adjust their schedules as more and more hockey games were wiped out.
If a deal had not been struck by now, there will likely have been no 2012-13 NHL season at all as league commissioner Gary Bettman had indicated he didn’t want a season that’s less than 48 games. The tentative agreement includes a seven-year limit on player contract length (eight for players to re-sign with their same team). According to reports, the 2013-14 salary cap, a sticking point in the final days of negotiations, will be set at $64.3 million with a floor of $44 million.