Determining the division of hockey-related revenue between the NHL and NHLPA is a stumbling block on the path toward a new NHL CBA, but it’s not the only one.

TSN’s Darren Dreger described how the concern of “Make Whole” would work:

The concept of “Make Whole” is a protection plan to cover player salary reduction in dropping the players revenue share from 57 per cent to 50 per cent in Year 1 of a new CBA. The NHL proposal included a deferred payment system which the league is also willing to reconsider when negotiations resume.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman explains further:

It’s likely the “make whole” provision is the key to getting a deal done. Both sides know they are eventually getting to 50/50, but it’s impossible to arrive there without 1) the players eating a chunk of their contracts or 2) the NHL “protecting” those signed deals somehow. That protection is the “make whole” proposal. 

Friedman goes on to explain the problem with the league’s original “make whole” provision was it was to be funded by the players. He writes, “Any salary one of them received for losses over the next two years would count against everyone else’s”.

The league last week reportedly offered (in informal discussions) to have the owners, rather than the players, pick up the tab. Though news of the league’s proposal was leaked hours after the NHL cancelled this season’s Winter Classic game, Dreger tweeted it had been suggested by league negotiators to the PA days before, which the league admitted on Friday when Dreger followed up on the info he had been provided on the subject.

Regardless, it appears the league’s willingness to have the owners pick up the “make whole” cost was what spurred this weekend’s “marathon” talks between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr.

If this provision is the basis for resolving the division of hockey-related revenue between the two sides, it would be a huge step toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

Still, it’s by no means a certainty that the lockout will come to an immediate end. Other issues of importance still have to be worked out.

Both sides have already held formal talks regarding “secondary issues” such as drug testing and player safety. The main issues, of course, remain the economics.

The terms of standard player contracts, eligibility for free agency, entry level contracts, arbitration rights, escrow, revenue sharing, and lowering the salary cap are also critical factors which must be hammered out before a deal is reached.

During this lockout,I’ve frequently suggested that, once the HRR issue is resolved, everything else should fall into place rather quickly. I still believe it, but I also don’t take it for granted. It won’t happen overnight.

Assuming the two sides agree to the “make whole” provision this week, it could take another two-three weeks of intense negotiations to get an agreement in place which would ensure a 60-game NHL schedule beginning in early-December.

Anything can happen to derail the talks. Both sides could try to slip stipulations into already agreed-upon issues in order to garner some additional leverage for themselves in the final deal. The owners – especially the big market ones – could fight attempts to increase revenue sharing. The players will resist any attempt to reduce their share of revenue too quickly. Free agency could become a prickly issue.

Plenty of work remains for both sides to bring this current round of collective bargaining to a successful conclusion and get the NHL back to action.

Still, the sooner the two sides resolve the division of hockey-related revenue, the closer we’ll get to a conclusion to this pointless lockout.