NHL CBA News Roundup – February 5, 2012.

With anticipation growing over the start of NHL CBA negotiations, here’s a look at some of the most notable NHL CBA news making the rounds since the All-Star Break.

SI.COM’s Stu Hackel suggested the NHL’s decision not to fight the NHLPA’s decision not to vote on the league’s realignment scheme was merely its way of beginning another “passive” PR campaign to gain fan support for the owners side and against the NHLPA.

That’s exactly what the league is doing, once again painting themselves as the good guys whilst making the players the irrational bad guys. Of course, the league really doesn’t have to try very hard. As we’ve seen, fan sentiment always falls with the league and the owners. There’s really not much the PA can do, other than to dial down the rhetoric this time around, which PA executive director Donald Fehr has done so far.

How long Fehr keeps it low-key remains to be seen once the negotiations begin for real.

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Speaking of realignment, the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson reported it turns out the PA suggested “wild card” games as a means of addressing the inequities of two conferences with eight teams and two with only seven.

Also interesting was the response from one player, who acknowledged ultimately there would be realignment and it would be negotiated, the inference being as part of the next CBA.

Of course, as Stevenson pointed out, that news was overlooked in the flap over the PA’s “rejection” of realignment.

Yeah, those players really sound unreasonable, don’t they? Yep, it’s the “Just Say No” NHLPA, all right. Boy, howdy!

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Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports recently observed the agreement between the NHL and NHLPA settling a dispute over hockey-related revenues could be considered a “good omen” heading toward the upcoming CBA negotiations.

I agree with Cotsonika. While there’s lots of issues to be addressed between the two sides, this recent resolution indicates a significant difference in the tone between the two sides heading toward CBA talks compared to previous years.

In the past, something like this would’ve been included amongst a myriad of other unresolved issues between the two sides which would’ve needed collective bargaining to hash out.

Of course, it doesn’t mean we should take this as an indication negotiations will go swimmingly between the two sides at the bargaining table, but it does indicate both sides are capable of working things out, without acrimony or unnecessary delays, if they really want to.

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Cotsonika also reported on how Fehr has done a good job speaking with the players, keeping them informed, and seeking their feedback.

That’s going to be crucial heading into negotiations with the league. During the last lockout, then-PA director Bob Goodenow reportedly kept the players in the dark during negotiations, surprising them by offering a 24 percent salary rollback, and ultimately failed to keep them unified as the negotiations dragged on and the 2004-05 season was lost.

It’s also important to remember, as Cotsonika pointed out, the players don’t want another lockout, but they’re not going to just give in to the league’s demands. Ultimately, the players want the best deal they can get without losing part or all of a season. To get that, you want one of the best sports labor negotiators in the business, which is why they hired Fehr.

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For those of you who still consider Fehr some kind of baseball “boogeyman” coming in hell bent on labor warfare with the NHL, or believing he wants to get rid of the NHL’s salary cap, you should gain some perspective by checking out THN.com’s Adam Proteau’s interview with the PA director.

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ESPN.com’s Craig Custance compiled a list of the notable issues to be negotiated between the two sides in their upcoming talks.

As has been previous noted on this site and my Kukla’s Korner blog, division of revenue, salary cap floor, possible salary rollback, amnesty from bad contracts, escrow, long-term contracts, entry level contracts and expansion revenue will be the significant issues.

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CBC’s Tim Wharsnby also weighed in, citing some interesting secondary issues, including drug testing, a second contract buyout window, Olympic participation, player suspension appeals, player safety, and “tweaks” to over-35 contracts.

Of those, a second contract buyout window and tweaking over-35 contracts are intriguing.

Currently, teams really only have one window of opportunity to buy out player contracts, which is the month of June. It would be interesting to see if the owners would push for a second buyout window, perhaps later in the season, and if it would incorporate the same buyout formula.

I think the one “tweak” we might see in the over-35 contracts is eliminating the clause which forces a player’s salary to still count against a team’s cap if he retires. Too many teams are shying away from older players nowadays because they don’t want to risk “dead cap space” if that player retires before his contract expires.