MLB could learn a thing or two from the NHL when it comes to negotiating a CBA.  While baseball has suffered a black eye and a bruised ego from the inability to quickly find a resolution to get players back on the diamond, ultimately forcing Commissioner Rob Manfred to make the decision, the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) have been able to work together more closely.

The two sides sat down at the virtual bargaining table, working out some finer points to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) peacefully and amicably.  Usually seen as the some of the toughest sportsmen in the industry, players showed a softer side that allowed for simple and effective dialogue.  Of course, with more than $300 million on the line, it isn’t too surprising.

NHL Players Bonuses IN CBA

As part of the last-minute CBA negotiations on subjects such as player contracts, some of which were set to expire, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to extend all of them.  In addition, any player who was expecting to receive a signing bonus today doesn’t have to worry about missing out on the cash.  All owed bonuses are going to be paid – and they’ll be paid on time.  That’s over $300 million ready to be distributed today.

More than a handful of players probably couldn’t sleep last night as they contemplated what they would do with the upcoming windfalls.  Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs are set to receive bonuses of $15.2 million and $14.3 million, respectively.  Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers will also pick up a nice extra payday of $13 million, and New York Rangers’ left wing Artemi Panarin will pocket $12 million.

Next Stop, Beijing (Maybe)

Part of the ongoing discussion with the CBA involves a possible return to the Olympic ice.  As long as there aren’t any major objections, including any blowback from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), some NHL players could return to the Olympic Games in 2022 after an eight-year hiatus.  According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, “If the NHL/NHLPA finalize things, if the players ratify it, and subject to negotiation with IOC, sounds like proposed CBA extension includes the NHL’s return to Olympic participation covering both 2022 and 2026.”

If approved, the players would head to Beijing, China in 2022 for the Winter Olympics, and then to Italy in 2026.  The Sochi Games in 2014 saw the last participation of anyone from the NHL, with Canada winning over the US and then over Sweden to take the gold.  The US finished in fourth place.

Standing in the way of those trips is Commissioner Gary Bettman.  He’s not a huge fan of Olympic participation by anyone in the NHL, calling the games “disruptive” to the league.  He said last November, “I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us.  I know the players love representing their countries. I know that the players like going. I know that the players that don’t go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive to our season.”

This time around, though, with a lot more at stake, Bettman may not be able to have his way.  Being involved in the Olympics has, for the longest time, been a part of many athletes’ dreams, and the tradition behind the games remains clear – to foster positive global relationships for all sports athletes and organizations.  It’s much bigger than just the NHL, and the commissioner will need to recognize this.  With so much at stake following the chaos caused by COVID-19, hockey players in the NHL are going to be ready to be as fierce at the CBA bargaining table as they are on the ice.