June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on stage at the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The NHL and the NHLPA have had a few initial meetings in the lead up to the negotiations to sign a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with the current CBA set to expire on September 15. After a 3 month lockout led to the 1994-95 season to last just 48 games and a full year's lockout led to the complete loss of the 2004-05 season, fans are understandably worried that once again CBA negotiations will lead to, at the very least a shortened season, at the worst another lost year.
With the CBA expiring in two months, the NHL has now made their initial proposal to the NHLPA. This initial proposal, to put it lightly, is about as insane as the demands between both sides that led to the lost season in 2004. At the time, the players were seen as the "bad guys" but after this proposal -- it's going to be easy to see how the tide of public opinion will quickly turn against the owners.
1. Reduce players' hockey-related revenues to 46% from 57 %.
2. 10 seasons in the NHL before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.
3. Contracts limited to 5 years.
4. No more salary arbitration.
5. Entry-level contract are 5 years long instead of 3.
Obviously, the players are not going to be happy with this proposal. While it's just an initial proposal in negotiations and many are saying this is just an extreme offer by the owners in hopes of finding a better middle ground, there were plenty of reactions like this:
"The moment the proposal was presented, every player in the room knew Gary had just written off 1st 3 months of the season." - an NHL agent— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) July 14, 2012
Yikes. More after the jump.
We're going to have much more on the CBA negotiations over the coming months, but here are some of my thoughts on what transpired on Friday:
** The NHL has made it known they are aiming for a 50/50 split in revenues similar to what the NBA agreed upon this past winter, and the NHLPA has stated all along that they are not ready to even accept that much of a drop. So, it's not wonder that asking for 46% was met with such disdain last night.
** It's impossible to deny, however, that contracts across the NHL have reached insane levels -- and you wonder who's fault that really is. The CBA signed in 2005 was supposed to keep this from happening and yet teams found a way to land big free agents with contracts meant to circumvent the salary cap -- these 10+ year contracts that have become the standard for big free agents.
Yet is that the players' fault, or the owners'? The problem is that no one really saw this coming with the last CBA, when the UFA rules allowed for players as young as 25 hit unrestricted free agency -- and players are now potentially hitting the open market in the middle of their prime, raising their price. So players are jumping from limited ELC's, to massive multi-year contracts that continue to raise what the league is claiming to spend on salaries.
** It's apparent that, once again, the biggest issue between the two sides is going to be over free agency. These 10-year contracts have proven to hold nowhere near the long-term value that they should and teams should be unwilling to hand these out -- yet it is what the players have demanded, and therefore eventually received. The owners also want to raise the UFA age to 29 or 30, something players will want no part of.
** You wonder just how much leverage the owners will have, especially after the Wild sign two players for nearly $200 million and $25 million in signing bonuses -- yet a few months before were crying about how broke they were as a franchise.
** Finally, perhaps the NHL should find a way to better bridge the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" in the league, such as the difference between a team like the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, with one struggling to hit the cap floor and the other freely spending to the cap limit yet seeing limited success on the ice. There's been talk of a possible "luxury tax" for teams that are willing to spend over the cap, which would help keep the floor lower and allow other teams to spend more freely as long as they were able to pay the price.
What say you? Are you ready to panic?