The NHL's collective bargaining agreement can be terminated in September 2019, and players haven't forgotten what happened the last time the CBA expired.
"We will be having lots of discussions with players over the course of the ensuing season, starting in the fall, about what that means and how we approach it and what's on players' minds and so on," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told The Athletic's Katie Strang. "And players are cognizant of the fact that in the last negotiations they made a series of significant concessions. And we'll sort of leave it at that."
Triggering the CBA's opt-out clause would end the current agreement following the 2019-20 season, two years ahead of its September 2022 expiration. The league and the players' association each have the right to opt out on different dates next September.
Fehr, who has been the head of the NHLPA since 2010, led the players through negotiations - and a lockout - five years ago. A deal was finally reached in January 2013, resulting in an abbreviated 48-game season and several changes to the CBA. Those changes included an even split of hockey-related revenue (players received 57 percent in the previous arrangement), a reduction in the maximum length of contracts, and a cap on salary variance through each year of a contract.
While the players may seek some modifications to the agreement, owners could be comfortable continuing down the current path. In November 2016, the NHL offered to extend the CBA through 2025 in exchange for allowing players to participate in PyeongChang 2018. The proposal was ultimately rejected.
However, at least two major issues could make the NHL more amenable to a deal this time.
The first is the potential entry of a Seattle expansion team, which could begin play in 2020-21. The new club would have to pay a $650-million fee, which is not included in the current calculation of hockey-related revenue. Those new dollars would be evenly split among the owners of current franchises, excluding the Vegas Golden Knights.
Additionally, several players' contracts include significant signing bonuses during the 2020-21 season. These must be paid regardless of whether or not a season is played, and it's difficult to imagine owners being thrilled to write those checks if league revenue streams are stopped by another lockout.