NEW YORK The NHL and the players' association reached a tentative agreement early Sunday to end a nearly four-month-old lockout that threatened to wipe out what was left of an already abbreviated season.
A marathon negotiating session that lasted more than 16 hours, stretching from Saturday afternoon until just before dawn Sunday, produced a 10-year deal.
"We've got to dot a lot of Is and cross a lot of Ts," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."
The collective bargaining agreement still must be ratified by a majority of the league's 30 owners and the union's membership of approximately 740 players.
Under the negotiated CBA, free-agent contracts will have a maximum length of seven years, but clubs can go to eight years to re-sign their own players. Each side can opt out of the deal after eight years.
The pension plan was "the centerpiece of the deal for the players," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, who took part in negotiations throughout the process.
The actual language of the pension plan still has to be written, but Hainsey said there is nothing substantial that still needs to be fixed.
The players' share of hockey-related income, that reached a record $3.3 billion last season, will drop from 57 percent to a 50-50 split. The salary cap for the upcoming season will be $70.2 million and will then drop to $64.3 million in the 2013-14 season. All clubs will have to have a minimum payroll of $44 million.
After the sides stayed mostly apart for two days, following late-night talks that turned sour, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh worked virtually around the clock to get everyone back to the bargaining table.
This time it worked on the 113th day of the work stoppage.
George Cohen, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director, called the deal "the successful culmination of a long and difficult road."