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Key Points in the NHL Collective Agreement

NHL free agency rules and the rest of the 2005 CBA.

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Here's what you need to know about NHL free agents and the new collective bargaining agreement. For comparison, changes to clauses that existed under the old deal are noted in italics.

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Unrestricted free agents will get younger. The minimum age at which a player can shop himself on the open market will drop through the first four years of the agreement:
    - In 2005, 31 years old.
    - In 2006, 29 years old or eight years of NHL service.
    - In 2007, 28 years old or seven years of NHL service.
    - In 2008, 27 years old or seven years in the NHL. The 2008 benchmark remains in place for the life of the agreement.
    Under the old system, players did not qualify for the open market until the age of 31.

  • Teams losing unrestricted free agents do not receive extra draft picks as compensation. In the previous agreement, compensatory draft picks were awarded, with the position of a pick based on the size of the player's new contract.

  • 2004-05 contracts are not honored. But the lost season counts as a year of NHL service when calculating a player's free agent status.

Restricted Free Agents

  • Players who are no longer consider "entry-level" but do not qualify as unrestricted free agents become restricted free agents when their contracts expire.

  • A team must extend a "qualifying offer" to its restricted free agent to retain negotiating rights to that player. Players making less than $660,000 must be offered 110 percent of last season's salary. Players making up to $1 million must be offered 105 percent. Players making over $1 million must be offered 100 percent. Under the previous deal, qualifying offers had to be at least 100 percent of the previous year's salary, with 10 percent raises due to many players.

  • Restricted free agents must sign NHL contracts by December 1, or they are not eligible to play for the rest of the season.

  • Both teams and players have the right to ask for salary arbitration as a mechanism to settle contract disputes. A team can take a player to arbitration once in his career, and cannot ask for a salary reduction greater than 15 percent. Players can ask for salary arbitration as often as they want. Only players had the right to request salary arbitration under the old CBA.

Other Stuff

  • Revenue sharing will see the top ten money-making teams contribute to a pool to be distributed among the bottom 15 teams. Teams in markets with more than 2.5 million television households cannot qualify for revenue sharing. That excludes the Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers, Blackhawks, Mighty Ducks and Kings.

  • Team contributions to the players' pension fund will increase, reportedly by as much as 300 percent.

  • NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2006 and 2010.

  • The trading deadline moves up two weeks. It will be 40 days before the end of the regular season. It was 26 days under the old CBA.

  • There is a drug-testing protocol. Players are subject to two random tests per year for performance enhancing drugs and other banned substances. A first-time offender is suspended for 20 games, a second offense means a 60-game suspension and a player failing three drug tests is banned from the league. Banned players can apply for reinstatement after two years.

  • A competition committee of players, executives and owners will consider and recommend future rule changes. There is also a joint broadcasting and marketing committee, and an emergency assistance committee overseeing funds to help retired players.

  • The NHL Entry Draft is reduced from nine rounds to seven rounds.

  • The waiver draft is eliminated.

  • The NHLPA has an option to re-open the agreement after of 2008-09, or extend it for an extra year after 2010-11.

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