NHL CBA Negotiations Update: What's Being Said

Bruce Bennett

The NHL and NHLPA are meeting for the fourth straight day today. Everything is looking on the up and up right? Do you feel some excitement building up inside of you? Extended communication between the two parties is a good thing. However, let me present to you the cautiously optimistic (more like pessimistic) angle that an old grinch like myself can only offer by giving you some quotes from media outlets.

First of all, Donald Fehr's memo to the players after Thursday's talks was leaked onto the internets. It stated:

No new proposals were exchanged on pension issues, but we will discuss this issue again tomorrow (Friday). We did receive a proposal on revenue sharing in response to the proposal we made this week, but this subject still needs considerable work.

In addition, we received a revamped proposal covering players' share and cap issues, their so-called "make whole", and player contracting issues. The owners finally did formally give us their "make whole" idea, which in dollar terms is similar to the discussions Bill Daly had with Steve Fehr a few days ago. While a step forward, a significant gap remains. Moreover, at the same time we were told that the owners want an "immediate reset" to 50/50 (which would significantly reduce the salary cap) and that their proposals to restrict crucial individual contracting rights must be agreed to. As you know, these include - among other things - losing a year of salary arbitration eligibility, allowing the team to file for salary arbitration in any year that the player can file, extending UFA eligibility to age 28 or 8 seasons, limiting contracts to 5 years, and permitting only 5% year to year variability in player contracts. Individually each is bad for players; taken together they would significantly reduce a player's bargaining power and give the owner much more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career.

In short, the concessions on future salary we have offered (at least $948 Million to $1.25 Billion over five years, depending on HRR growth) are not enough. We are still being told that more salaries must be conceded, and that very valuable player contracting rights must be surrendered. So, while we are meeting again, and while some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made.

We will review today's discussions over night and tomorrow morning before meeting again with the owners. Following our meeting tomorrow with the league, we will be able to provide a broader update.

As always, please contact us if you have any questions or comments.

Best regards.
Don

That via TSN. In summary, talking is good but....the sides a quite far apart.

Also from TSN:

TSN Hockey Insiders were cautious that the talks might not be as productive as hockey fans would want.

"NHL and NHLPA go into Day 4 of negotiations still looking for some traction after 3 days, by all accounts, of mostly spinning their wheels," TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted Friday morning.

With all regular-season games cancelled through Nov. 30, negotiations have reached a critical and delicate stage. Ten days will be needed from the time an agreement is struck until the season starts and there is still hope among the parties that a shortened schedule could begin by Dec. 1.

For that to happen, signs of progress need to emerge soon, something neither side is entirely sure will happen.

"I understand negotiations...just don't see how the lockout ends anytime soon given the position of both sides." Darren Dreger tweeted Friday.

Agreed, Mr. Dreger.

Crosby on the CBA:

“As players, we’re asking the same question: Why couldn’t the league meet for three weeks when we all know that the same issue was there for those three weeks?” Crosby told the radio host. “That’s negotiations, and none of us like it. It doesn’t always seem like there’s a great explanation all the time and that’s what’s frustrating, I think, for everybody.”

Although he wouldn’t put a number on how many games would constitute a "legitimate" season in his mind, Crosby did place a number on what he believed to be fair to all teams.

“The closer we can get to a full one, the better for everybody,” Crosby said Friday. “I gotta think 60 (would be fair). I’m sure less than that could be played, but I think 60 would be pretty fair. There are teams that struggle and that gives you a chance to go through a tough point in the season and still have time to kinda gather yourself. So that’s a length that I’m sure everyone could live with, but I’m sure that we’d all be much happier playing much more than that.”

That from Sidney Crosby on a Pittsburgh radio talk show via Sportsnet. Oh yea Sid? That 60-game prognosis from a guy who plays on one of the teams that travels the least amount over the span of a season. Less is better if you're a Canucks player in that regard. Screw the slow start theory. That would be remedied when less games were played.

From Sportsnet's Michael Grange:

Continuing talks suggest optimism, but the word Thursday night was trending in the other direction. Those involved in the talks describe them as slow and laboured.

Momentum? There is no real momentum.

More discouraging is that the new proposals put forward by the NHLPA earlier this week are more of the same, at least as far as the league is concerned.

Apparently the players are still seeking a fixed dollar amount for their share of hockey related revenue (HRR) for the first three years of a new CBA with the owners share increasing (from 43 per cent) based on the league keeping a greater share of future revenues.

A source with the NHLPA would say only that with normal growth -- the players have insisted on using a seven per cent growth rate for revenues in their projections; the owners project five per cent -- the NHL would get their 50-50 split in the third year of a new CBA.

There is no doubt this can be described as a concession by the players. The players were getting 57 per cent. Their first proposal averaged about 54.5 per cent of HRR and their next was about 53 per cent.

The problem is the owners want to get to a 50-50 split next year, which means shaving a minimum of about $250 million from the players' share right now. That's what the back and forth was about and will be about as the two sides convene at their not-so-secret lockout headquarters -- the boardrooms of Proskauer Rose, the NHL's powerhouse law firm.

They might be making sounds about finding a way to make good on that over time -- ‘making whole’ is the phrase -- but there has never been any indication the owners are prepared to pay anything close to the $1.87 billion they paid to the players last season in 2012-13, or what is left of it. As for a raise? That is absolutely not happening. Moreover, the negotiations will only be stickier given that the lockout will doubtless have a considerable negative impact on league revenues.

I don't think I need to post any more quotes than that. So basically, we await the fallout from today's meetings and what can we expect? Minimal "traction" to talks, slow improvement if any on any of the major issues. This is going to take a lot more time. The worst thing that could happen after today is increased frustration and talks coming to a stand still.

I can see that happening. Sorry to be so negative but it is what it is.

Grumble grumble.

IN OTHER NEWS (AKA What a Wonderful World)

-Porn stars in a tiff because they have to wear condoms? Can't say I blame them. I hate wearing condoms too.

-Christina Aguilera showing too much skin on The Voice premiere? As a heterosexual man I say..HELL NO!

-Are the Dallas Mavericks' cheerleaders showing too much skin? Uh...NO!!!

-Married couples are "meshing" their last names now, instead of choosing a the male's last name (traditional) or hyphenating the two last names together. Annoying? Not really. But there is something great about keeping the family name going. Some people now don't want to be that traditional. Annoying is Miley Cyrus. Meshing last names...bah not really. The bottom line is women should assume the men's last name. That's how I was raised and so therefore that is the right way. /runs

-Ever want to travel to Israel and walk in Jesus' footsteps? I have. The last leg of the tour scares me though. The part where you get nailed to a cross. Too far? Seriously though, I have friends that have done it and it does sound intriguing.

-REDNECK BONFIRE!

And for the music clip of the week (CRANK IT!):

Have a great weekend folks! I'm off to a ski cabin to make a redneck bonfire.

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