October 22, 2013

NLL, Players Reach Labor Agreement Through 2020

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

The NLL's new labor agreement will last through 2020 and included changes in roster, regular season and playoff format as well as salary rules.
© Clint Trahan 

Read More: Details of the CBA from NLL Press Release

No salary increases for two years, smaller lineups, a playoff format change and a lowering of the age at which players can become unrestricted free agents are all part of a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement announced by the National Lacrosse League and the Professional Lacrosse Players' Association on Tuesday.

Commissioner George Daniel called it ''an historic day'' and association president Peter Schmitz said opting to co-operate in helping to curb team expenses was done ''without diminishing the product.''

The majority of the nine teams lost money last season. The previous CBA also was for seven years.

Salaries stay the same for the first two years: rookies get $9,207, the maximum for veterans stays at $27,2177, and those given a franchise player tag by teams can earn $33,971. A cost of living increase of 3.5 per cent annually begins in 2016.

Daniel said the NLL ''needed to make some changes to our business model'' to make investing in an NLL franchise more attractive for future franchise bidders.

''We laid out where we felt we needed to make some changes and the players listened,'' he said. ''Everybody wants to cut a bigger piece of the pie but everybody recognized that the pie has to get bigger.''

After analysing teams' finances, the PLPA apparently agreed that a non-rancorous set of negotiations was appropriate.

''I applaud the players for their willingness to assist the clubs in stabilizing expenses for the next two years with the hope that they and the league are rewarded with growth and expanded awareness of our great sport,'' said Schmitz.

Roster size was the association's major concession, but unrestricted free agency at age 30 rather than the previous 32 is a PLPA win. Players also gained ground on game-day per diems and some other travel expenses.

Division finals and the title game become two-game series, with a 10-minute mini-game to be played if the two games are split, rather than the single-game elimination as in the past.

''We're all pretty happy that a deal has been struck,'' said Toronto Rock forward Garrett Billings.

''It's great to have the deal done,'' said Minnesota Swarm transition player and captain Andrew Suitor.

Smaller lineups will discourage teams from carrying one-dimensional players such as enforcers.

''It's not really a huge adjustment from offensive side,'' said Billings. ''On the defensive side, those guys are going to be sucking wind. But I don't think it's going to be a huge adjustment.''

Team training sessions begin in November.

''It's going to be really tough to make a team,'' said Billings. ''But it's going to make for entertaining lacrosse.''

Adds Suitor: ''You're going to have to keep yourself in top shape and be prepared to play more minutes.''

Reducing rosters was painful, said Daniel, ''but that's the most effective way for us to reduce costs. That really became the big one for us, reducing the roster size.

''But we've improved the business model in hope we can make the NLL franchise model more attractive for future expansion. Then we'll get those jobs back, when we get future expansion down the road.''

Daniels said he has no timetable for expansion.

''It would be great to bring some new markets into the league,'' he said. ''Also, we're interested in coming back to the New York market . . . and all of the major Canadian markets we're not in already. There's nothing at this point . . . because until the CBA was finished everything was pretty premature.''

There will be a luxury tax on team payrolls over $400,000. If a team spends $410,000 on payroll, for instance, that team would be taxed 25 per cent on the $10,000 they were over, equalling a fine of $2,500.

Any player given a franchise tag in the previous CBA -- a maximum of two per team could be so designated -- were bound to remain with their team but the new CBA -- reducing to one the number of franchise players per team -- allows those 34 or older to decline and leave. With the luxury tax, don't expect big names to jump ship to get huge contracts because NLL teams don't have the millions to throw around.

Team can begin signing unrestricted free agents. Big names on that list include all-time indoor lacrosse scoring leader John Tavares, who is expected to play a 23rd consecutive season with Buffalo, Philadelphia captain Brodie Merrill and Wings goalie Brandon Miller, Toronto captain Colin Doyle, Rochester forwards Dan Dawson and Mike Accursi and Vancouver forward Lewis Ratcliff.

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