TSN's Bob McKenzie has published a letter from NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to the players regarding yesterday's proposal by the NHL, and the reaction is far from the optimistic reception as we'd hoped. In short, Fehr feels that while this is a step in the right direction the league is still asking for way too many concessions for an actual deal to be made at this time.
From the letter:
"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, at the 5 per cent 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 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."
There are a lot of other very important details in this letter as well, with Fehr stating that the players still feel that there is nor reason for the NHLPA to accept a reduction in the amount the players receive based on seven years of record revenue growth -- but that players are willing to take a reduced share going forward so the NHL can grow.
This is stipulated, of course, on the basis that the NHL enhances revenue sharing between franchises.
The letter does seem to state that the NHLPA will not outright reject this offer, but instead approach the NHL and see just how much negotiating the league is willing to take part in regarding this exact proposal. Gary Bettman never said that these specific terms of the proposal were written in stone, only that the deal is contingent on an 82 game season being played.
"We do not yet know whether this proposal is a serious attempt to negotiate an agreement, 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."
The big issue, once again, seems to be regarding HRR and how it is calculated. The players feel that how that calculation is made is key to the negotiations, as previous proposals had used HRR calculations that reduced the players' share more than the actual cut in percentages.
The NHLPA is also not a fan of the "make whole" provision of the proposal, which essentially has the players paying themselves in order to keep the value of existing contracts the same.
So, a bit of cold water is instantly thrown on the proceedings. The good news, in a way, is that the NHLPA seems to feel that this is still the framework for a negotiated deal to be made from. We shall see what happens, depending on the union's counter offer on Thursday.
There's also this factor to consider -- how many players are willing to take an offer to get the season underway, especially a rather reasonable offer, rather than continue to face the possibility of a delayed or canceled season? Only a small percentage of players have found jobs on other teams overseas and there's a growing thought that this proposal may actually start to "crack" the union a bit, putting pressure on Fehr and the NHLPA to get a deal done in time for the November 2 deadline.
I have a feeling were are in for a rather intense few weeks.