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Terms of next CBA crucial to future

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NEW YORK -- The Winnipeg Jets returned to our city as a result of many factors, not the least of which was the collective bargaining agreement hammered out in 2005. The next CBA will also have a major impact on the Jets' future.

The salary cap of 2005 opened the door for Winnipeg to rejoin the best and most expensive hockey league in the world. True North chairman Mark Chipman was able to look at the numbers and determine if his operation could be financially viable. Chipman's finance and legal folks studied the CBA and tore it apart page by page. Before they were done they knew the document as well as, if not better, than any team in the NHL.

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Chipman knew what he was getting into. That he was able to confidently look his partner David Thomson in the eye and tell him Winnipeg would work in the NHL is evidence the previous CBA worked for Winnipeg.

The fact the Jets made money last season and were in the top 15 in the NHL in terms of revenue generation adds to the argument. Our town, however, is not without its issues and any developments that would further secure Winnipeg as a viable NHL market should be welcomed.

Here's a look at some key deal points and how they affect the Jets:

Revenue split: Both sides have agreed they'll eventually get to a 50-50 HRR split, down from the current 57 per cent dedicated to player salaries. This is a positive for the Jets. Winnipeg won't ever be able to go dollar-for-dollar with the highly-profitable big-market clubs. so institutionalized salary drags are good.

Revenue sharing: The latest offer the NHL put on the table would see the league's revenue sharing pool increase from $140 million to $200 million. The players want to see that pot climb all the way to $250 million. Under the NHL's modification of the revenue sharing program the criteria for disqualification is less stringent, making the rainy day fund easier to access should the Jets ever need it. Winnipeg didn't qualify for revenue sharing last season nor did it have to pay into the pot. Best case scenarios would see the Jets never having to rely on revenue sharing, but for a small-market franchise it's a nice security blanket to have.

Contracting rights: The NHL wants to limit all player contracts to five years and eliminate back-diving contracts that circumvent the salary cap. The league is also seeking amendments to both the arbitration and entry-level systems. Right now the age of unrestricted free agency is 27, or seven years of service, whichever comes first. The NHL would like to move it to 28, or eight years. Restricted mobility is good for the Jets. Small-market Canadian teams are at a disadvantage in free-agent recruiting and any way the Jets can hold on to their young stars as long as possible is a positive.

Realignment: The Jets are not moving this year and, depending on how long the lockout goes, maybe not next year. Commissioner Gary Bettman told the Free Press at the annual GM's meeting last March that realignment would be solved by the CBA and Winnipeg would eventually be leaving the Southeast Division. So far there's been little talk of realignment in these negotiations, but look for it to be raised if and when a deal is close to being reached. How quickly that results in the Jets moving to a new division remains to be seen.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2012 D3

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