NHL Submits New CBA Proposal

Yesterday, big news broke in the hockey world. Count Bettman and his evil minions submitted an offer to the NHLPA, and hockey fans across North America were jumping for joy. Hell, even I was.

However, when I read the details of the new offer, I stopped jumping and began to giggle in a way that would creep most people out. No joke. Here's what was made public by the league (via a letter to players and agents from Donald Fehr):

  1. The new CBA would be a six year agreement with a mutual option for a seventh year.
  2. The new proposal calls for a 50/50 split in HRR sharing. This was and still is a major issue in negotiations, as the players feel they got the short end of the stick in the last CBA.
  3. However, with the 50/50 HRR split, the players' share is reduced to 50% from 57% immediately. This is a reduction of 12.3% in the share which, based on last year's revenue numbers, means that player salaries would be cut by about $231M.
  4. The proposal includes a "make whole" provision to compensate players for anticipated reduction in absolute dollars from last year (2011-2012) to this year and next year. However, it would work like this. The players' share is subsequent years would be reduced so that this "make whole" payment would be made. It is players paying players, not owners paying players. That is, the players are "made whole" for reduced salaries in one year by reducing their salaries in later years.
  5. Finally, they also proposed that the players could appeal supplemental or commissioner discipline to a neutral arbitration, on a "clearly erroneous" standard, which, as a practical manner, makes it very unlikely that a decision would be overturned.

Fehr wrote in the beginning of the letter, which breaks down a summary of the NHL offer, the following:

- "Simply put, the owners' new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights. As you will see, based on the 5% industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion. What do the owners offer in return?

- "The proposal does not represent movement from their last negotiating position, but still represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners, in salary and benefits (the Players' Share) and in individual player contracting rules."

The last two paragraphs of the letter is pretty much just Fehr telling the players and agents where he feels the negotiations stand and it also reinforces the players' position on every issue:

- "We do not know yet whether this proposal is a serious attempt to negotiate, or just another step down the road. The next several days will be, in large part, an effort to discover the answer to that question.

- "Bear in mind the approach the Players have taken to these negotiations. It is:

- Given the enormous concessions players made in the last round, plus 7 years of record revenue reaching $3.3 billion last season, there is no reason for a reduction in the amount the players receive.

- Players are willing to take a reduced share going forward so that the NHL can grow out of whatever problems some franchises face.

- The player contracting rights secured in the last negotiations should be, at minimum, maintained.

- Revenue sharing needs to be enhanced and structured so as to encourage revenue growth by the receiving teams.

- The overall agreement has to be fair and equitable for both parties. Bargaining is both give and take."

A couple little details that were left out of the letter are:

- Players must be 28 years of age or have secured 8 years of service time to reach unrestricted free agency. This is an increase in one year of age and one year of service time from the previous agreement.

- Players in the AHL under NHL contracts will have their AAV's count against the salary cap.

- If accepted, a full 82 game season would take place.

- Entry Level Contracts would be a maximum of 2 years. (The proposal originally stated that they would be 4 years maximum)

The proposal was more or less rejected by the NHLPA earlier today, and rightfully so. Whether this truly was a serious offer by Bettman and his evil minions or not, it was still likely, in large part, a move to get the positive PR back on the league's side. The players would have to clinically insane to accept the proposal.

However, what this proposal does do is create a basis for serious negotiations to take place. The next 7-10 days will be days of long, hard bargaining from both sides.

That is unless Count Bettman decides to play hard ball and make an offer that's even more lopsided towards the owners than any others.

With three lockouts in his tyrannic reign as commissioner of the NHL, I think it may be time to coin Bettman "The Grinch Who Stole Hockey". Cheesy, I know, but I'm a writer. Not a comedian.

Players have been expressing some "cautious optimism" according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. Vancouver goalie Corey Schneider stated, "Both sides were waiting for somebody to make a move. For them to make a move towards us, it at least signals that they are serious about negotiating and getting started. Up until this point, we weren't fully convinced of that. This is obviously a good step towards that."

Hopefully this proposal is a sign of things to come. If all goes well, then we should see a new CBA hammered out in the next 7-10 days and be able to experience the joy of a full season instead of having to suffer through 2004 all over again. If that happened, I can assure you that there would be many, many, many sad fans.

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