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Wharnsby: NHL’s latest offer a good starting point

The general reaction from hockey fans appeared to be positive after the NHL’s offer on Tuesday to share revenues 50-50 with the players, but there still needs to be plenty of bargaining between both sides to end the lockout.

The general reaction from hockey fans appeared to be positive after the NHL’s offer on Tuesday to share revenues 50-50 with the players.

But please employ caution to this optimism. There still needs to be plenty of bargaining between both sides to end the lockout.

After taking several hours to examine the NHL proposal that was put forth at the NHLPA offices in Toronto on Tuesday, the players felt the league’s move could unlock the negotiating logjam if the NHL is willing to bargain off its latest offer.

“We don’t think this is a take-it-or-leave-it offer, so if it’s something they are willing to discuss this is something that is a good starting point to maybe get a deal done,” oneĀ player said.

“We have questions about the proposal. There are parts we need to understand. There are some areas we feel we’re still taking too much of a haircut, but it’s better than before and it shows a willingness that maybe the league is now serious about doing a fair deal.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman lured plenty of supporters to his corner because many have believed all along the fair compromise would see both sides arrive at a 50-50 split on hockey-related revenues.

The commissioner also had people excited when he revealed that if a new collective agreement could be worked out in the next 10 days, a full 82-game regular season could be saved, commencing Nov. 2.

But the document that the NHL slid across the table was much more complicatedĀ than

Bettman let on in his session with reporters.

NHLPA lawyers were still examining and evaluating the proposal after a 105-minute conference call between executive director Donald Fehr and the players’ executive board concluded in the early evening.

The players need clarification on several matters and will seek answers from the league on Wednesday. It’s uncertain whether the two sides will get together for the next bargaining session on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

It’s also unclear whether the players will come back with another proposal, or separately negotiate off each point of the NHL proposal.

The big issue for the players remains that they do not want to see a drastic drop from 57 per cent of hockey-related revenues tied to salaries to 50 per cent. They want to see a gradual reduction back to 50 per cent. They want the owners to honour all the current contracts. They don’t want rollbacks.

Bettman said there is a mechanism in this offer that allows players to earn the full value of their current contracts – believed through deferred payments that were tied to revenue growth – but the players still have questions about how exactly this will work. They still will have to wait to earn full value of their contracts under this proposal and they want to know if they get interest on the deferred money.

Under this proposal, which is six years plus an option season in length, teams would have a transition year that would allow them to spend $ 70 million US on payroll if they want. But the decline back to 50 per cent in the second year still was viewed as steep, considering there has been record growth in league revenues in the seven seasons since the last lockout.

Other components of this deal include:

  • Players would be eligible for unrestricted free agency at age 28 or eight years of service. In the past CBA, a player was eligible to become a UFA at 27 or seven years of service.
  • Contract lengths were capped at five years.
  • Revenue sharing among the 30 teams was increased to $ 200-million from $ 150-million.
  • Owners want one-way contracts buried in AHL to count against NHL salary cap, something they tried but could not get in last CBA.
  • Entry-level contracts would be reduced to two seasons from three.

The NHL has not liked the way term and average salaries have increased in recent seasons in a player’s second contract.

A two-year entry level contract and five-year cap on the lengths of deals would allow teams to hang on to players through three contracts before they hit unrestricted free agency.

So we’ll see how the NHLPA reacts to all this in the next 24 to 48 hours. But again, it appears the NHL’s latest offer finally could lead to some serious negotiations after a lengthy period of little movement.

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