I didn't think I'd be writing another one of these for a while, but some big news hit the hockey media on Friday morning just as Team USA was dropping the puck against Russia. It seems that the NHL made a surprise offer the NHLPA on Thursday night that moved on three key areas, as well as retained the $300 million "make whole" provision that was supposedly off the table.
Before we get into speculation on whether an offer was actually made or not, Bill Daly released a statement confirming the news:
"In light of media reports this morning, I can confirm that we delivered to the Union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA late yesterday afternoon. We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the Union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."
The news and details of the new offer, ironically, did not come from the league this time. Instead, Eklund actually broke news when he heard the details from a player. People in the media checked with a few of their player sources and the news was confirmed; the NHL had made a new offer. What's interesting is that it's likely most of the players heard this news just like the rest of us:
NHLPA will have a conference call today with players. Those not on negotiating committee a bit in dark right now.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) December 28, 2012
The NHLPA is having the conference call at around 2 p.m. CT, so it will be interesting to see what the response will be. Usually when a proposal is leaked like this, especially from the NHL, the details are made out to be better than they really are and the union comes back with a statement of how the NHL's offer wasn't anywhere near as good as reported. We've seen this happen at least twice already.
However, considering the fact that the news and details of the changes in the NHL's proposal came from the players and not the owners, we have to at least consider that this is a legit offer. Some in the media even reported that players told this this was the sort of offer that could lead to a vote by the NHLPA and almost certainly will lead to meetings between the two sides once more. Reportedly the proposal is a comprehensive CBA that could be signed today, an offer of more than 300 pages that the NHLPA will have to go over before any meetings can commence.
So, what were the changes?
- NHL offers a term limit of six years on new contracts, with teams able to sign their own players to seven.
- An increase in year-to-year salary variance in new contracts from five percent to ten percent.
- Allowing teams one contract buyout in the summer of 2013 that would not count against the cap but would count against HRR.
It is believed that these changes in terms are based off the suggested CBA proposal by the anonymous NHL Governor from a few weeks back. There are almost certainly going to be some issues the players have with the proposal still, as the NHL is likely still dead set on a 10-year term limit on the CBA and still requesting fairly restrictive term limits.
It's clear, however, that the terms the NHL was supposedly prepared to "die on the hill" over have now been moved closer to what could be deemed satisfactory by the players. This is a deal that likely gives something good to the rich franchises (the buyout) and pleases the hardliners. The key is whether the two sides can actually agree on anything if and when they meet this weekend.
Already we're hearing of some fairly optimistic planning by the league:
I'm hearing NHL has targeted Jan. 19 as potential start date. Would like week-long camp. Wants this deal done by Jan. 10, 11.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) December 28, 2012
Told it's conceivable IF the NHL and NHLPA can agree on CBA this weekend, that league could play 52-game sked that starts 2nd week of Jan.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) December 28, 2012
For most of us, we won't believe anything until a deal is on ink and signed by both parties. But it certainly seems as if the amount of owners who refuse to allow a season to be canceled have been heard, and the NHLPA's strategy of waiting out the NHL just a bit longer might have worked.