So it has come to this, hockey’s version of “High Noon”. After enlisting Donald Fehr as head of the NHLPA to spearhead the CBA negotiations, the Players knew that this may be a long, drawn out fight, and it has been just that. With over 50% of the season lost, and the Owners’ having no interest in anything less than a 48 game season, the so-called “Drop Dead Date” of January 11th (rumored) for an agreement to be reached is looming in the very near future.
The timing is right for a deal to be struck, we are reaching the point of no return, and we are bearing down on a more pressing date, January 2nd, which is the deadline that the Players have to disband the Players’ Union, which has been seen as their last resort option. If the Players were to disband, considering all the egos involved in this whole mess, you can nearly bet the farm that the entire season, and legitimately perhaps the NHL as a whole, could be lost.
With lower earning teams such as Anaheim, Florida, Phoenix, etc., DESPERATE to get the season started and revenue coming in again, and many other of the mid-tier teams sick of this whole fiasco, the NHL proposed a new CBA agreement to the NHLPA late Thursday night that, for the first time, truly shows the NHL making some concessions. This proposal is the first proposal that I personally feel could, and should be the proposal that puts an end to this embarrassment. Let’s take a look at some of the key points to this CBA proposal.
The Hockey Related Revenue will. Be split 50/50 between the Players and Owners
Although the Players’ share is dropping 7% from the last CBA, this was all but a fore-gone conclusion, and a battle the Players would have been better off to never fight.
The proposal calls for a 10-Year time period for the CBA with a mutual opt-out clause after 8 for both Owners and Players.
The Players have made it known that they do not want a 10-year term on the CBA and were nearly unwilling to go past 7 years, however with the opt-out clause at 8 years and the Owners making some concessions, the 10-year term may not be a deal breaker, and I personally feel that the longer the CBA the better for the fans before the next lockout (knock on wood that that doesn’t happen but history doesn’t lie).
Contract will be limited in length to 6 years, however if teams are resigning a player who plays out the last full year of his contract with a team, THAT team may sign him to 7 years.
This is the biggest concession that the owners have made to date, with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly saying that he “would die on a hill before budging” from the NHL’s previously proposed 5-year contract limit. As of early Sunday morning Deputy Commissioner Daly is neither dead nor on a hill (at least that I know of). While this limits the Players ability to sign massive money deals that are spread out of 10-years to reduce the cap hit, this will help add to the competitive balance of the league by closing the salary cap loophole of long-term front loaded contracts that owners have been giving out like candy (Shea Weber, Zach Parise).
The “Make Whole” offer of $300 million is included in the proposal
The “Make Whole” stipulation is to honor already existing player contracts. Many players have felt that more than a few recent contracts were signed in bad faith, so this clause assures players that have signed contracts that they will receive the full amount owed. After talks broke down the last time, the NHL pulled the “Make-Whole” offer from the table, but from the Players’ side, a deal would not be struck without it, although I am sure Bettman is taking heat from a few Owners for putting it back on the table.
The 2013-2014 Salary Cap will be dropped to $60 million, with a transition Salary Cap for this season set at $70.2 million, with each team being afforded ONE Compliance Buy-out.
The Players will not be thrilled with this aspect as they were seeking a $67 million cap. This may be the aspect that could keep this deal from being signed. Hopefully if that is the case, the Players will be smart enough to negotiate off of this deal as a whole, and not pitch an entirely new counter offer. The Compliance buy-out is an interesting stipulation because, although teams would still have to pay 2/3 of the salary owed, they will be given complete forgiveness of that player’s Cap Hit.
Two more intriguing aspects of the proposed CBA is the addition of an unspecified “Interview Period” for all upcoming Unrestricted Free Agents, and the second addition is the adjustment to Player Discipline in which Players can appeal to a neutral third party. The latter aspect is a great addition for the players because it avoids an NFL-Type-Roger Goodell-Judge-Jury-Executioner approach to discipline.
With all this in mind, it is time for cooler heads to prevail. With this deal, the Owners will significantly increase their revenue share, and the league as a whole will be more competitive due to the Salary cap aspects and elimination of the cap hit loopholes. The Players, no-doubt are worse off (at least the top paid players) as far as their income RIGHT NOW, but with an increase to the financial health and CBA stability of the league, they will be ok in the long run. The time for posturing, PR battles, and ego-stroking is DONE.
With the two sides scheduled to meet in person later today (Sunday), I am expecting encouraging news. As a fan of the game if talks completely break down again, it would be devastating. I do not believe, necessarily, that a deal will be signed or even agreed in principle to today, but I do feel that with this proposal, that day is close, and certainly closer than it has been to date.
After this whole insane process, I will not be shocked in any way no matter how this turns out, as many in-the-know believe that Fehr will take this down to literally the last minute, but my gut is pushing me to the optimistic side.
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