Progress Made In NHL CBA Negotiations

By Rob McMahon
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NHLPA met with NHL owners without NHLPA representative Don Fehr or NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman present for the second straight day Wednesday and appear to have made progress on talks. The two sides met early Wednesday prior to the NHL’s board of governors meeting to continue their talks from the day before.

After the board of governors meeting the two sides met again, with the NHLPA making a new collective bargaining agreement proposal to the owners. The owners would then break to review the proposal on their own before returning to meet with the players once again with a counter offer.

The two sides continued to work through each others proposals before breaking for dinner and to review things separately. Once meetings resumed the two sides would continue to talk with several small breaks where the owners would leave to meet privately only to return to the meeting room to continue. At one point Steve Fehr personally delivered pizza to the media on hand at the location who had been waiting for any news to break since 9:00AM.

At one point things got heated in the meeting room and the meeting almost blew up, but things were quickly resolved and the two sides continued to work late into the night. They would finally break for the night around 1:00AM EST with the NHLPA not making any statements to the media other than Ron Hainsley stating that there were a series of candid meetings and they would resume tomorrow.

Bill Daly also met with the media after the day’s meeting to inform them that some progress was made but talks are still in delicate stages and they would continue Thursday, neither the NHL or NHLPA fielded questions.

Some details of the negotiations have slowly become available as time passes after the meeting, such as the NHL raising it’s “make whole” offer to $300mil. However $250mil of that will go directly to player salaries while the remaining $50mil will go towards pension funding that would not come out of the players pockets.

This however becomes an issue should the players decide they would rather take the $50mil towards salary instead of pension. Canada and the United States have different pension laws in which the U.S. teams can pay $20,000 more to pension plans than Canadian teams tax-free. The reason for the $50mil difference is to help relieve some of that from the Canadian teams that would have to pay higher rates than the U.S. teams.

The NHL proposal also included a 10 year length on the deal with an opt out at eight years, so it could be an eight year deal. It’s expected the NHL increased the number of years from its previous proposal to help relieve some of the burden of the $300mil “make whole” addition.

They’ve also proposed to a contract limit of five years to unrestricted free agents from another team and seven years for players from own team, similar to the NBA‘s rule. This helps with salary issues and front-loaded contracts being offered with a high number of years as a “loophole” for the salary cap. There is also a 5% variance included in the NHL’s proposal, basically stating that the difference in salary from one year to the next can be no more than 5%.

It’s said that the players and owners were both giving in their proposals in the sense that they made more of an effort to meet somewhere in the middle. The players gaining more money on the “make whole” while the owners gain lower contract lengths and longer CBA term length. When the two meet tomorrow at an expected start time of noon EST, the players may return with another counter proposal.

The good news from these meetings is it seems like the two sides are finally working together and working off of each others proposals instead of their own. Things are still volatile and could blow up at any given moment, but at the same time one right move could have this lockout over very soon. It’s a very well played game of chess by both sides now and it’s not so much a matter of who will come out of this victorious but more so the sheer beauty of watching it commence.

However ,it’s also been reported that players are concerned about the format of these meetings as they commence and that some wish there were no restrictions on who may attend. Having more ownership involved in talks could help in things progressing as more begin to get word of what’s going on behind closed doors. However with no limits on who attends meetings Bettman and Fehr would be allowed to return. With things as delicate as they are right now changing anything could cause all deals to go sour.

Check back with RantSports as we update you with more information on CBA talks as it becomes available to us.

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