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Wharnsby: NHL’s latest offer a good starting point


The NHL’s offer to share hockey-related revenues 50-50 with the players likely will not appease the NHLPA enough to immediately end the 31-day lockout, but the proposal should finally break the stalemate and at least deepen what have been non-existent negotiations.

The NHL’s offer to share hockey-related revenues 50-50 with the players likely will not appease the NHLPA enough to immediately end the 31-day lockout, but the proposal should finally break the stalemate and at least deepen what have been non-existent negotiations.

On Tuesday, the NHL claimed there was still enough time to play an entire 82-game schedule if its latest offer was agreed upon in the next 10 days. Therefore, a weeklong training camp could be held later this month and a Nov. 2 startup date implemented.

However, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr did not show one way or another whether this proposal would be accepted, rejected or maybe a starting point to intensify negotiations.

“You make an offer, you expect discussions, you expect further negotiations,” Fehr said from the lobby of the NHLPA offices in Toronto.

“I’ve been looking for a way to get these negotiations jumpstarted and if this does it, that would be great. We’ll see though.”

Fehr was to conduct a conference call with the players on the NHLPA executive board at 5 p.m. ET. Most of the players wanted to wait until then before they began to comment on the proposal made by Bettman in Toronto on Tuesday morning.

Willing partnership

The inside word from the players all along has been that they were willing to form a 50-50 partnership with the league, but that they didn’t want any part of a drastic drop that would see them relinquish 57 per cent to 50 per cent in their share for salaries.

The players felt that they gave up too much eight years ago in the last CBA negotiations that cancelled an entire season. They also thought the NHL failed to make a single concession in its two proposals last summer.

Bettman, however, revealed in his brief session with reporters that the league’s offer would have a mechanism that would see the players earn the full value of their current contracts. That mechanism was not explained, but future growth that would allow the contracts to be made up with deferred payments.

“We made a proposal, an offer, really that is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs,” Bettman said.”This offer that we made obviously was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season.

“So we have about nine or 10 days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.”

Some of the main components of the NHL’s offer included:

  • Fehr said it was a minimum six-year deal.
  • 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 amongst the 30 teams was increased to $ 200-million US 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.

Although the league said this has been a deal they had been working on for several days, it was interesting the proposal was made less than 24 hours after deadspin.com revealed damaging details of a focus group conducted in the Washington, D.C. area last Friday.

Frank Luntz, a Republican Party chief strategist, talked with 30 people and afterwards discussed how the NHL could alter its message to start to win a public relations battle it had been losing.

In the meantime, Bettman returned to his Manhattan office to await a response from the NHLPA, a response that will likely come on Tuesday.

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CBC | Sports News