As the NHL lockout enters Day 105, the hockey world is abuzz over a new, comprehensive CBA proposal by the league, but will it bring an end to the lockout?
CANADIAN PRESS (VIA WINNIPEG FREE PRESS): Chris Johnston reported yesterday the NHL made a new CBA proposal softening some of its demands on player contract terms, salary variance and contract buyouts. The deal is apparently contingent on the NHLPA signing off on it by January 11, in order to stage a 48-game season beginning January 19. The NHLPA’s negotiating committee and executive board held a conference call Friday afternoon to discuss the proposal. There remain some issues to be worked out, and a PA source told Johnston they aren’t keen on the league dropping the salary cap to $60 million for 2013-14, which could result in a higher level of escrow for the players.
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun obtained the highlights of the league’s 300 page proposal to the NHLPA. Of note is the league now offering a six-year term limit on contracts (except for seven years for re-signed players), putting the $300 million “make whole” option back on the table, seeking a ten-year CBA with a mutual “opt-out” at year eight, a 50-50 division of hockey-related revenues, no changes to rules governing entry-level contracts, free agency and arbitration, a one-time-only amnesty buyout prior to 2013-14, increased revenue-sharing to $200 million, all non-playoff teams participating in the annual entry draft lottery to determine which club gets the first overall pick, and improvements regarding player health and safety.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: James Mirtle cited a report from the Winnipeg Free Press stating the NHL and NHLPA will convene via conference call Saturday to discuss the league’s proposal, with negotiations planned for Sunday. The Saturday conference call involves “representatives from the players and owners look through the NHL’s latest offer for a collective agreement. They will go over any questions about it in advance of the anticipated negotiations on Sunday.” A league executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two sides will have until January 5 or 6 to hammer out the details, then allow a week to complete the legal paperwork necessary to end the lockout.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports NHL officials were also discussing “a flip of conferences for the Blue Jackets and Jets for this season only, for what would be an in-conference only schedule.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That has since been denied by league officials, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it were being kicked around. As Brooks noted, realignment remains a pending issue, but apparently will be implemented for 2013-14.
PHILLY.COM: Frank Seravalli cautions not to anticipate this latest offer could spell the end of the lockout, though he suggests it’s the start of the endgame. The NHLPA still has the option of filing a disclaimer of interest by January 2, and Seravalli suggests the timing of the NHL’s offer isn’t surprising. He also believes the players are as antsy as the owners to get a deal done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors emerged yesterday claiming the owners have told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cancelling the season isn’t an option. If so, NHLPA director Donald Fehr could try to use that as leverage in Sunday’s negotiations, where it’s expected he’ll table a counter-proposal.
CBC.CA: Elliotte Friedman reports the NHL proposal contains a “memorandum of understanding”, which contains more details. Friedman noted the league played the 1994-95 season through a memo of understanding following a lockout while the details of the CBA were still being hashed out. He also suggests escrow could be a significant sticking point, as the players don’t want to pay 25 percent. He suggests a 10-year CBA could mitigate the problem.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell compliments Donald Fehr for his handling of CBA negotiations on behalf of the players, resulting in the league consistently changing its offers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fehr has clearly gotten under the skin of Bettman and his negotiators. By keeping the players unified and well-informed, Fehr has so far managed to get the league to continually soften its demands. Rest assured, when the ink is dry on this deal, the owners will be considered the “winners” as they got the players to concede to an even division of revenue, a “make whole” provision, term limits on contracts, and controlled variance on salaries.
Still, this could’ve worked out much worse for the players, as rules governing entry-level contracts, free agency and arbitration remain unchanged, they’ll have a greater say throughout the next CBA on issues concerning them, the league is now willing to allow a one-time-only amnesty buyout plan, plus it is proposing improvements regarding player health and safety issues. Fehr was brought in to get the best deal he could for the players. It appears he’s on the verge of accomplishing that goal.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: An attempt to put the recent arena-management agreement by the city of Glendale and prospective Phoenix Coyotes buyer Greg Jamison to a referendum has fallen through.