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National Hockey League Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr, centre, said Monday: 'While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season.' (File Photo).

The Canadian Press

The NHL Players’ Association has announced it will not reopen the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2019-20 season, avoiding a potential lockout next September.

The NHL had the same right and informed the NHLPA last month that it would not terminate the labour deal. The players had until Monday to make their decision, while the league’s deadline was Sept. 1.

The original 10-year agreement signed after the most recent lockout in 2013 included the opt-out clause after eight years for both sides.

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Allowing the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to run through Sept. 15, 2022, should be viewed as a positive sign as negotiations on an extension continue.

“While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. “We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue.”

Monday’s news means the owners and players will avoid a potential lockout – which would be the fourth under commissioner Gary Bettman’s watch – in 12 months time.

“We are pleased with the NHL Players’ Association’s decision,” Bettman said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the NHLPA for the benefit of all stakeholders, especially our fans.”

The two sides have been talking since February, and Fehr said earlier this month those discussions have been cordial.

“It doesn’t mean there haven’t been disagreements and significant disagreements, but it’s so far at least free from rancour,” Fehr said after meeting with roughly 50 players in Chicago. “That’s a big improvement.”

The current CBA appears to be working well for owners, but players have voiced concerns after making significant concessions in the previous agreement back in 2013.

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Past negotiations have involved fundamental changes to the game such as the introduction of a salary cap, but there are issues such as escrow – how much of a player’s salary is withheld to ensure a 50-50 split of revenues – health benefits, what constitutes hockey-related revenue and Olympic participation that are important to union members.

NHLers went on strike in 1992, while owners have instituted a lockout on three separate occasions since. A chunk of the 1994-95 season was lost to a lockout and the entire 2004-05 campaign was cancelled.

The current agreement ended the lockout that reduced the 2012-13 season to a 48-game schedule.

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