With the biggest media deal in the history of the National Hockey League, Rogers Communications is in, TSN is out and the salary cap is going to get a huge bump.
On Tuesday the NHL and Rogers Communications announced a 12-year deal for the company, which owns SportsNet, to be the exclusive carrier of the league in Canada.
The $5.2-billion deal begins next season and runs through 2025-26. It is the largest media rights agreement in league history. The agreement ends regional blackouts in Canada, vastly increases the wealth of teams and pushes TSN, the Canadian equivalent of ESPN, out of the NHL game.
Rogers will have editorial control over all platforms of media, including the franchise “Hockey Night in Canada.” That will remain on CBC with an agreement reached between the network and Rogers for the next four years.
“We think this deal is historic and forward thinking,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said at a news conference in Toronto. “It is a partnership to grow the game, to build and promote the brand and to put our players” in the spotlight more than ever before. “But most important in this deal, the fans win.”
Bettman noted that every game involving a Canadian team in the national window – Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday – would be shown nationwide, ending blackouts and regionalization.
But the piece of the story that will most directly affect the Buffalo Sabres is the price tag and its impact on hockey-related revenue.
The television deal will roughly add $433 million a season in hockey-related revenue, with 50 percent going to the players. And as hockey-related revenue rises, so does the salary cap.
The salary cap for the current season is $64.8 million, with the Sabres spending around $57 million.
For next year, they are only on the hook for about $30 million with seven unrestricted free agents (most notably Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Matt Moulson and Henrik Tallinder) along with six restricted free agents (notably Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno).
The salary cap is expected to jump to the $70 million range, which gives the Sabres lots of room to play with in signing their own free agents or in pursuing other free agents or big trades.
The other headline news of the day in the NHL came from a class-action lawsuit filed by 10 former players in Washington, D.C.
All-Star Gary Leeman, who played from 1983-96 for Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver and St. Louis, leads the lawsuit.
Three former Sabres have joined – Richie Dunn, Morris Titanic and Rick Vaive – along with Bradley Aitken (Pittsburgh, Edmonton), Darren Banks (Boston), Curt Bennett (St. Louis, New York Rangers, Atlanta), Warren Holmes (Los Angeles), Robert Manno (Vancouver, Toronto, Detroit) and Blair James Stewart (Detroit, Washington, Quebec).
The lawsuit claims the NHL knew, or should have known, about the scientific evidence of the effects of repeated head injuries. It also contends the league continues to put players at risk by allowing fighting, enforcing and creating a culture of violence.
“We believe that this is a lawsuit without merit,” Bettman said in Toronto. “We have been extraordinarily proactive on player safety.”
Speaking of concussions, Daniel Briere returns to Buffalo tonight with the Montreal Canadiens. The 36-year-old forward missed 10 games after suffering a concussion against Nashville on Oct. 19. It was his third concussion since January 2012.
Briere signed a two-year deal with Montreal in the offseason after playing six years with Philadelphia.