Union picks up CBA extension option

The NHL Players' Association made a pair of important decisions Tuesday, the most noteworthy of which was to extend the collective bargaining agreement through the 2011-12 season -- the seventh and final season of the CBA.

The NHLPA remains without an executive director, although former baseball union chief Donald Fehr has acted as an adviser during the past year.

Still, because there still hasn't been a leader named, it was widely expected the union would use its right to pick up the option on the CBA for a seventh and final season.

"The NHLPA is pleased to announce to hockey fans that the CBA will remain in effect through the 2011-12 season," the union said in a statement. "It is apparent through the operation of the CBA that there are a number of issues that require serious examination. The NHLPA is currently reviewing these issues and will be forming a negotiating committee in the coming months in order to address these matters."

The union's decision Tuesday also means NHL clubs will retain the ability to use the "performance bonus cushion" provision in the CBA for contracts in the 2010-11 season.

Players 35 and over, for example, can earn bonuses above and beyond the salary cap, which would be carried over to the following season. This gives NHL general managers more leeway this summer in signing players.

Also Tuesday, the NHLPA's executive board voted to retain the 5 percent "growth factor" in calculating next season's salary cap for NHL teams.

"The growth factor is automatic under terms of the CBA, once revenues exceed $2.1 billion unless either the NHL/NHLPA proposes another Growth Factor based on actual revenue experience or other projections," the union said in a statement.

What it now means is that next season's salary cap will be a little more than $59 million per team, although final calculations between the union and league still have to be completed during the next week.

Had the union voted to take out the growth factor, the cap would have been closer to $57 million.

This past season's salary cap was $56.8 million.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.