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The NHLPA won’t reopen the CBA, what does this mean for the 2022 Olympics?

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The NHLPA won’t reopen the CBA, what does this mean for the 2022 Olympics?

The NHL Players’ Association elected Monday not to exercise its right to reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL. The deadline for the NHLPA’s decision was Sept. 15, but, as that date fell on a Sunday, an exception allowed for the deadline to be extended to Monday, the next business day.

“While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the League that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said via a statement. “We have been having discussions with the League about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue.”

The NHL also had the option of reopening the CBA, but like the NHLPA elected to keep the current CBA in place. The league’s deadline was Sept. 1.

What this means is the current CBA will remain in place until Sept. 15, 2022 ensuring an additional three years of labor peace. That is significant news for a league that has experienced two work stoppages in the last 15 years.

That’s the good news. The potential bad news is what this could mean for Olympic participation.

The next winter Olympic Games will be held in Beijing in 2022 months before the current CBA will officially expire. Olympic participation is not guaranteed under the current CBA and the players were not allowed to participate in the PyeongChang games in 2018.

Every issue the league had with PyeongChang in terms of having to pause the regular season to participate and the time difference restricting viewership and interest will still be present in the 2022 games.

You have to wonder how that may impact the future of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin takes Olympic participation very seriously and 2022 will likely be the last time for him to represent his native Russia in the Olympics and compete at a high level. If there is no sense that the NHL will allow its players to participate, does that affect Ovechkin’s future plans when his current contract expires in 2021?

Having said that, the league has made a concerted effort of growing interest in China. Recent years have seen preseason games played there and Ovechkin took a tour through China during the offseason as an NHL ambassador. It seems likely the NHL would be much more interested in participating in Beijing than they would have been in PyeongChang.

To reopen the CBA for the Olympics and its other concerns, however, would have been too much of a gamble. The league has shown its willingness to miss games in order to get a favorable CBA in the past and there is no reason to think that option would not be on the table in 2020.

The NHLPA’s decision on Monday ensures we will see hockey through the 2021-22 season and that’s good for everyone.

“We are pleased with the NHL Players' Association's decision not to reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the NHLPA for the benefit of all stakeholders, especially our fans."


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Why hockey fans need to circle Sept. 15 in the calendar

Why hockey fans need to circle Sept. 15 in the calendar

A league that has seen two work stoppages since 2004 appeared to take a step in the right direction toward avoiding a third on Friday when the NHL announced it would not reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA is set to expire on Sept. 15, 2022, but the NHL had the option to opt-out of the final years and trigger a new expiration on Sept. 15, 2020.

By choosing to keep the CBA open, that seemingly paves the way for labor peace for an additional three years...or does it?

The league is happy with the current CBA, but that does not mean the players are. Like the NHL, the NHLPA also has the option to reopen the CBA and that’s why hockey fans everywhere should have Sept. 15 circled in their calendars. If the NHLPA decides to opt-out, that is the deadline.

Which way the NHLPA may be leaning is unknown. On Friday, the NHLPA released a statement saying simply, "Today the NHL advised the NHLPA that the league will not exercise its early termination right under the CBA. The NHLPA now has the same option. We will continue to discuss this matter with players as our September 15 decision approaches."

Why would the players potentially choose to reopen the CBA and thus risk a work stoppage next year?

The Associated Press surveyed union representatives and found that escrow was a major concern for the players.

As the owners and the players share a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue, a certain percentage of player salaries is withheld in escrow to make up for the difference.

Another issue that is perhaps more pressing given the timing is Olympic participation.

If the CBA remains open to September 2022, it would mean Olympic participation in the 2022 Beijing Olympics would not be guaranteed. It is not a right given to the players in the current CBA and the NHL elected not to allow players to participate in Pyeongchang in 2018.

While those are concerns the players may have regarding the current CBA, the question now is whether the NHLPA feels strongly enough about those issues to reopen the CBA three years early.

It is important to note that if the NHLPA elects not to reopen the CBA, it does not necessarily mean the players cannot participate in Beijing. It simply means it will not be guaranteed to them in the CBA. Will the threat of missing another Olympic tournament be enough for the players to risk a possible work stoppage? That is a question that will be decided by Sept. 15.


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Capitals make upgrades to fourth line on first day of NHL free agency

Capitals make upgrades to fourth line on first day of NHL free agency

One of the summer goals for Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan was to upgrade the fourth line. It took one day of free agency to accomplish that. 

At least Washington hopes so. It signed unrestricted free agents Garnet Hathaway (Calgary Flames) and Brendan Leipsic (Los Angeles Kings) on Monday afternoon. With Nic Dowd entrenched as the fourth-line center, Hathaway would be the right wing given the Capitals gave him a four-year, $6 million contract with a $1.5 million average annual value. They joined third-line right wing Richard Panik, who signed a four-year deal for $11 million and a $2.75 million cap hit. 

“The thing I like about Panik and Hathaway is that they both skate well,” MacLellan said. “Garnet had good north-south speed. Panik is a really good skater for his size. So, I don't think that we're sacrificing on the speed side to add heaviness. I think we got big players that can skate and play well.”

The other depth forwards on the roster competing for playing time are Travis Boyd, who is under contract at $800,000, and Chandler Stephenson, who was tendered a qualifying offer worth $715,000. One of those players could be in trouble.

Washington has to re-sign restricted free agent Jakub Vrana and would have $3.57 million left for a bridge deal once Djoos signs. But add in another forward for a 23-man roster and that math starts to get unlikely at under $3 million left for Vrana. 

But that decision is for another day. For now, adding to the fourth line was a priority. 

“I'm really excited, obviously. I know a lot about the team, obviously playing against them,” Hathaway said. “It's a difficult team to play against. It seemed like a good fit because we play a similar style. Obviously, it's a winning culture there too. It's something that I'm really excited to be a part of. I know that no one in that room wants that to change, so we want to win games and that's exciting and I can't wait to join them.”

Hathaway has had quite the journey to get here. He played four years of college hockey at Brown, but was never drafted. He played a full year in the AHL in 2014-15 before making his NHL debut with Calgary the next season in 14 games. He gradually increased that to 26 NHL games in 2016-17, 59 and then 76 last year when Hathaway scored a career-high 11 goals with eight assists (19 points). 

Hathaway is a good penalty killer. He can fight, with 13 in his career, though that’s obviously less necessary in the modern NHL. A hard two-way game with some scoring upside is the appeal here. The Capitals won’t be much fun to play against with Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Radko Gudas and Hathaway around. That’s a heavy team with enough speed to get by.  

“I think they built this team so well, I don't think there's a void that you can really point at,” Hathaway said. “I want to go and I want to complement the guys that are there right now. They have a lot of skill, they have a lot of scoring and they have guys that are tough and play a physical game. So, I want to continue on the growth I have in my career right now and I want to continue to be hard to play against. That's something I hope I can help with them.”

Meanwhile, Leipsic joins his sixth NHL club and he’s still just 25. Maybe it’s too soon to just hand him a spot so there could be competition there at left wing. Leipsic split last year between Vancouver and Los Angeles. The Canucks waived him in December. Once a third-round pick by Nashville in 2012, Leipsic has 13 goals in 126 NHL games, but five goals and 13 assists in just 45 games with the Kings. It’s an interesting flyer on a player in his age-25 season.