So the NHL moved. But where did it move and by how much? Is it enough to save the season?
With the lockout into its 105th day, here’s a closer look at the three main issues still separating owners and players and what has changed in light of the league’s titanic 300-page proposal:
Previous proposal: 10 years with an opt-out after eight years for either side
New proposal: Unchanged
The NHL has not moved from its request for a long-term agreement, as commissioner Gary Bettman wants to come out of this dispute – the league’s third lockout in 18 years – with the ability to assure fans and sponsors it won’t happen again in the near future.
The league has also kept $300-million (all currency U.S.) in “make whole” or transitional payments to players on the table in large part because a long-term agreement will make that money easier to pay over time.
The players want a shorter deal in the range of six to eight years, but could be willing to bend.
TERM LIMIT AND VARIANCE
Previous proposal: A five-year term limit for free agents, seven years for re-signing players and a strict limit of 5-per-cent salary variance from the first year of a contract
New proposal: A move up to six years for free agents and a 10-per-cent salary variance
The term limit is the area NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly called the league’s “hill we will die on,” but there was apparently a bit of give on the hill.
This is a subtle shift, but one that is meaningful enough to bring players back to the negotiating table. The variance, however, remains strict enough that it would significantly limit the ability to front- or back-load contracts.
To date, the NHLPA’s offer on contract term has been at eight years for all players, as they don’t like the idea of a shorter term limit for free agents.
Previous proposal: No transitionary measures, i.e. buyouts or escrow caps
New proposal: An allowance for one buyout in the 2013 off-season that would count against the players’ share but not the cap
This one won’t have players doing backflips, but it will allow teams that have committed a lot of salary to 2013-14 payrolls to have one “get of out jail free” card and expunge one bad contract from their midst.
A contentious issue on this front remains the NHL’s desire for a $60-million salary cap in 2013-14 despite the fact several teams have close to that amount already committed to payrolls. Expect players to fight for a higher number.
WILL THIS SAVE THE SEASON?
The short answer is not on its own. The players are unlikely to accept the league’s offer in its current form and will presumably bring a counterproposal into the mix in the coming days.
A vote by the full membership, if there is one, is likely still another week to 10 days off.
What this offer from the league has already done, however, is pushed the two sides to talk again, established a firmer drop-dead date (Jan. 19) for a season to start, and forced the NHLPA to make the next offer.
Given how close the two sides are on the remaining issues, that should be enough to ensure they get back on the ice within a month.