Entering Day 106 of the NHL lockout, the two sides are expected to continue conference calls today, with a possible meeting either today or Monday.
CANADIAN PRESS (VIA NATIONAL POST): Chris Johnston reported the NHL and NHLPA intend today to resume a series of conference calls which began on Saturday, as the two sides exchange information before resuming collective bargaining.
TSN.CA: Darren Dreger reports three more information sessions will be held today, some via conference call, otherwise face-to-face in New York City. The discussions could lead to bargaining but there’s no guarantee. Saturday’s talks were “informational” and no bargaining took place.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: James Mirtle examined the key issues in the league’s latest proposal (contract lengths, salary variance, transitionary measures), and also reports most season ticket holders for Canadian-based teams are retaining their ducats, with fewer than 200 out of more than 100,000 believed to have cancelled. Eric Duhatschek, meanwhile, believes NHLPA director Donald Fehr must determine if the NHL is bluffing by establishing January 11 as a deadline for getting a new agreement in place to save the season. Duhatschek points out February 16 was the drop-dead date of the last lockout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fact so few season ticket holders cancelled explains why the NHL was willing to stage another lengthy lockout. Season tickets remain the lifeblood of the NHL, and as long as there wasn’t a massive cancellation, the league saw no reason to feel threatened by the loss of fan support post-lockout.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi expects Fehr to “ fight for every nickel before finally getting a deal done around Jan. 11, when there is no more time to negotiate. That would enable the season to start Jan. 19.”
ESPN.COM: Scott Burnside cautions negotiations for a new CBA by January 11 won’t be easy, pointing out the players don’t like the decline in the salary cap for 2013-14 to $60 million from $70.2 million, nor do they like the notion of amnesty buyouts coming out of their share of hockey-related revenue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics of the NHLPA will howl if Fehr and the players attempt to bargain off the league’s latest proposal, but given the league has now set a deadline less than two weeks away, that allows time to negotiate. As long as the league doesn’t react angrily to that, or try to intimidate the players with another empty “take-it-or-leave-it” threat, I suspect negotiations will go right up to January 11, after which a deal could be announced. Otherwise, talks break down, this mess heads to the courtrooms, and we kiss the remainder of the 2012-13 season goodbye.
SPORTSNET: Michael Grange examines the difficulty some teams (Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins) with high payrolls could face should the salary cap drop to $60 million for 2013-14. Citing a league source, Grange also noted escrow for that season at $60 million would be 6.2 percent (presuming revenue grows by 2.5 percent, not a certainty following a shortened season), but at $67.5 million would be 16.3 percent, which could be worse if revenue flat-lines or declines.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes this proposed CBA will be bad for the players, especially those due to become UFAs next summer, and worse for fans of big market teams forced to dump salary to become cap compliant. He acknowledges pushing for a higher salary cap for 2013-14 would mean higher escrow deducted from the players salaries, suggesting the PA should negotiate a cap on escrow.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Escrow is likely to be a significant sticking point here. The PA could push for a higher salary cap with a cap upon escrow, but I doubt the league will be in the mood to entertain that, especially given the uncertainty over the effect the lockout will have upon revenue growth in the short term.
BOSTON GLOBE: Chad Finn yesterday reported NBCSN president of programming Jon Miller was frustrated by the length of the NHL lockout. The network has a ten-year with the league beginning this season, and the lockout has cost the network 33 games by the end of this month. “We never had any indication that this situation with the NHL was going to last until January”, said Miller. “It was always our understanding that this was going to be a tweak and a fix.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t help but wonder if pressure from NBCSN, as well as league sponsors, might be partially behind the league’s latest CBA offer.
YAHOO! SPORTS: Greg Wyshynski reports Dan O’Neill, the NHL’s Vice President for Arena & Event Operations, “sent a memo addressed to all “Arena Technical Coordinators, Video Goal Judges and Video Goal Technicians”, containing information about technical changes for “the upcoming season”.An off-ice NHL official (speaking on condition of anonymity) told Wyshynski it’s the first time all year they’ve received this kind of information from the league.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This, combined with rumors and reports of teams contacting their staff to prepare for a possible return to work soon, has given some fans reason to hope for a new CBA by January 11. I would caution, however, this might merely be the league covering its bases. Believe the NHL is back when it is officially announced by the league and the NHLPA.