Everyone seems happy that the National Lacrosse League and its players have a new collective bargaining agreement. This should include fans and, yes, journalists, so that there will be a season this winter and in years to come.
I'm not sure the two sides had much choice.
The league obviously isn't in great shape, with some franchises struggling at the gate. The whole sport has to grow in order to make it more attractive to possible new owners of expansion franchises.
To everyone's credit, both sides must have realized that the situation called for fixes. The NLL opened up the books, the players believed adjustments were needed, and they went to work and got a deal done quickly. It was the rational thing to do, but that doesn't mean the effort shouldn't be saluted.
The owners got a reduced roster - 23 to 20 is a good-sized cut. That's going to save some money. More importantly, it's going to make the league even more competitive. We're down to the 180 best players around now, so roster spots will be squeezed a little more. The players saw the age for unrestricted free agency drop by two years to 30, which seems more than fair. Interesting that Billy Dee Smith and Chad Culp of the Bandits were in that slot and thus benefit from the new deal. The practice roster does go up by one to four.
There's also a luxury tax of at least 25 percent starting at $400,000, and the numbers go up from there. Commissioner George Daniel said a few teams probably would have been over that number in the past, but that the reduced roster probably would make it easier to hit that target.
Here's one other interesting note about the CBA: A player older than 34 can walk away from a franchise designation, which would force a player to stay with a team otherwise. It was called "the Tavares rule" in the conference call. In other words, if the Bandits wanted John Tavares to stay with the team through the age of 45 without ever giving him the chance at free agency, they could. Since he's been around for more 20 years, he should have the chance at testing the open market if he so chooses. I don't think he's going anywhere - it sounds like Tavares will give playing a shot at training camp and then see what happens - but he and others in that situation deserve a shot.
The Bandits have been active in terms of transactions already this season. They still have players to sign, naturally, and there may be some new free agents out there later this year of interest. I would think that increased free agency would help teams in the traditional lacrosse hot beds like Buffalo, Toronto and Vancouver (Rochester might be counted there too), so I'll be paying attention to how that shakes out. I saw on IL Indoor that John Grant Jr. has re-signed with Colorado, a good move by the Mammoth.
--- Budd Bailey