The ball is back in the hands of the NHL Players’ Association.
With collective bargaining talks set to resume at the NHL head office on Wednesday morning, the union is expected to table a new proposal. It comes on the heels of a 90-minute meeting on Monday evening where the league asked NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to put together a comprehensive offer that includes how to split revenue and rules governing player contracts.
“We’ve never heard a full proposal from them,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “We’ve heard their proposal on economics, they’re still suggesting that they’re moving in our direction on economics. Until we know exactly where they stand on economics ... we think it’s all tied together.
“We’d like to hear it all together.”
The meeting on Wednesday comes at the same time the league is expected to cancel more games. According to sources, the NHL has decided to wipe the first two weeks of December off the schedule, which will bring the total lost during the lockout to more than 400 games.
In addition to revenue split and player contract rules, the sides need to work out how to pay for the damage caused by the lockout. In the NHLPA’s most recent offer, which was tabled Nov. 7, the union asked for the players’ share of revenues to jump in fixed increments of 1.75 per cent each season starting from the $1.883-billion they took in last year.
That proposal didn’t include the mechanism that would be used to account for the reduced revenue generated during a shortened 2012-13 season.
The NHL would prefer a proposal based on a percentage of annual revenue.
“If their proposal continues to be a guaranteed player amount, sitting here on Nov. 19, that’s not a proposal that would ever be acceptable to us,” said Daly. “If that happens to be where we are, we will be a long way apart.”
The league and union must also find agreement on contract rules. The NHL would like to see entry-level contracts reduced to two years, unrestricted free agency pushed back to age 28 or eight years of service and all deals limited to five years maximum.
So far, the union has only shown a willingness to make system changes that would discourage teams from signing players to long-term, back-diving contracts.
Now in its 10th week, the lockout has already cost the players three paycheques and the league millions in lost revenue. The sides considered taking a break from negotiations last week, but the NHLPA urged the league to continue meeting.
“It’s hard for me to see how you make an agreement if you aren’t talking and so you talk,” said Fehr. “Sometimes it doesn’t lead anywhere, perhaps very often it doesn’t lead anywhere, but if you aren’t talking it’s 100 per cent sure it doesn’t lead anywhere.”