My take on what the league didn’t like in the NHLPA’s proposal (in no particular order), and those they might be willing to accept.

– The main sticking point: the PA wants the players’ share of revenue to never decrease over the course of their proposal, even if league revenue should decline, meaning the players would actually earn more than a 50-50 split in revenue. No way in hell the league accepts that.

I understand the PA’s position. The owners implemented the lockout, they should pick up the tab for any resultant losses, but after the first year, the impact of the lockout lessen over the remainder of the new CBA.

Even factoring in some residual effects carrying over into year two, the remaining years of the proposed CBA shouldn’t be adversely affected by the lockout.

– The cap limit not dropping below $67.25 million in any given year. Considering the league sought a reduction to $59 million, and prefer to keep the cap tied to revenue fluctuations (meaning if there is a 2012-13 season, revenue will certainly be lower, meaning that cap ceiling could drop), I don’t believe the owners are interested in a fixed cap ceiling level.

– Division of HRR. Both sides have agreed on a 50-50 division, but disagree how to get there. As per James Mirtle:

This is the difference between the two offers: NHL: 55.5%-51.5-50-50-50. NHLPA: 56.3%-53.8-52-50-50. It’s absurd how small it is.”  

Indeed, it is, James.

There’s enough wiggle room to reach an agreement, but both sides have to be willing to give a little. So far, the only thing they can agree upon is the final years of the deal will be split 50-50. It’s the first two-three years that remains the problem, along with the “make whole” provision. Speaking of which…

“Make Whole” provision. As per’s Pierre LeBrun:

The NHLPA asks that the league fork over an additional $182 million in “make-whole” money (honoring existing players’ contracts) on top of the $211 million already offered by the league two weeks ago. Whereas the $211 million offered by the league would cover the two first seasons of the new CBA ($149 million/$62 million), the NHLPA proposes the $393 million be spread over four years: 
2012-13 – $182M 
2013-14 – $128M 
2014-15 – $72M 
2015-16 – $11M  

LeBrun considers that “too rich for the owners blood,” and I agree. The owners might agree to a slight increase over $211 million, but not an extra $182 million. At some point, the PA will have to accept a figure much closer to the league’s offer.

-PA rejecting term limits on players contracts appears a non-starter for the league, which wants to close the loophole on front-loaded, long-term “cheat” contracts.

The PA did propose a “cap benefit recapture program”, which Elliotte Friedman describes in detail, and which Greg Wyshynski encapsulates as “the money that you avoid factoring into your cap hit gets factored into your cap hit after the player retires.”  

That might help, but I still see the league standing firm on term limits for contracts.

The PA doesn’t want limits on contract term because they believe players should be allowed to sign deals for as long as they like, though less than ten percent of the PA membership ever got a contract five years in length or more under the previous CBA.

They’ll have to give on this point if they hope to get the league to give on other contract issues or the “make whole” option.

– The PA also rejected changing the eligibility requirements for unrestricted free agency and reducing entry level contracts by one year. I’ve heard the league might be willing to concede on the latter, but remains firm on increasing the eligibility for UFA status to age 28 or eight years of NHL service.

– Elimination of team’s right to walk away from an arbiter’s decision. Few teams have gone that route, but my guess is team owners would prefer to keep that option, just as the players want to retain their arbitration rights.

– No buyouts for players earning $3 million per season or less. As with rejecting an arbiter’s decision, buyouts for those players doesn’t happen often, but I suspect teams would prefer to retain that option.

– Players demoted to the minors or loaned overseas with contracts worth over $1 million count against the cap. The league wants it at $525K. They might be willing to come up a little more, but I don’t believe they’ll go to $1 million.

So does the league’s rejection of the PA’s proposal signal an impasse in negotiations? Maybe not.

Despite the usual post-proposal rejection rhetoric from both sides, there were some things in the PA’s proposal which the league should like.

As Toronto Star columnist Kevin McGran observed prior to the PA’s proposal, some of them are “common ground” issues (Trading cap space, third-party arbiter for on- and off-ice discipline, elimination of re-entry waivers) likely to be part of future proposals, and the eventual agreement.

The PA’s suggestions to address the issues of burying contracts in the minors and front-loading contracts should move the sides closer to resolution on those points.

The league might also give some consideration to the PA’s suggestion of changing the distance between the salary cap maximum and minimum from a dollar figure to a percentage, in which the maximum would be 20 percent above the mid-point and the minimum 20 percent under, rather than the $8 million distance on each side of the mid-point used under the previous CBA.

That would significantly lower the cap floor for struggling teams, while allowing free-spenders more cap space at the upper end.

At least, as RDS’s Renaud Lavoie stated, the “war of numbers” is over, as the league and the PA agreed they were “only” $182 million apart. Now, it’s a question of closing a gap which was significantly wider not that long ago.

The two sides have reportedly agreed to meet again on Friday, and while there probably won’t be much “traction” gained, there appears to be more movement – painfully slow as it is – toward a potential agreement.