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Fehr Responds To NHL's New Proposal, Details On Contract Issues Emerge

The league has made it's best offer to date with a 50/50 split in HRR and offering to protect current contract values by paying back monies lost later. Details on contracts emerge.

Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The cadence of these negotiations in the media has been rigidly formulaic to this point. When it's Gary Bettman's turn to speak first Don Fehr follows 20 minutes later and generally dampens any enthusiasm that may have been generated to that point.

So when Gary Bettman announced that the league had offered and 82 game season beginning in November, a 50/50 HRR split, and a mechanism to protect existing NHL contracts and their values, it was assumed by most of the online hockey community that Don Fehr would rain on the parade.

That's where it gets interesting today. He really didn't.

Fehr was cautious and said little, it's true, but the NHL's proposal was not immediately rejected, and the PA seemed genuinely surprised that the league made this offer today. Fehr said he did not know it was coming.

He added that there is still much to learn about the proposal, and still a lot to "wade through," but that he was hopeful this is something they can "negotiate off of, though it's too early to say."

It's too early to say how close this can be to an acceptable deal, or something to counter-propose on. The players association will need more detail than we have on how exactly the cap will work next year, how much of a reduction is necessary in player salaries (the math says about 12%) and exactly how those dollars will be repaid over the coming years.

Details from John Shannon of Sports Net are as follows...

  • The league (that signs players to 14 year deals) wants a 5-year limit on contracts. Currently there is no limit.
  • The league desires unrestricted free agency to begin at age 28, or at 8 years of service. That's up from 27 and 7 currently.
  • Arbitration would still exist.
  • Entry level contracts would go from three years to four years, allowing teams to keep talents like Jamie Benn very affordable for longer term. Shannon now reports that his earlier info was wrong. Owners have not proposed changing entry level contract lengths from three-year deals.

So clearly the players are not going to like all of this, but it's significant movement just the same. The players will have a conference call tonight to discuss the offer. It's not believed they will respond formally today.

So there are a number of issues to sort through here. The question is how badly the players want to get back on the ice, and how much they feel that capitulating now will haunt them six or seven years down the road as this process plays out again.

This is an exciting proposal, but if the players feel that it's too much too soon, and that building a long term backbone of the union is more important, they could dig in.

Most believe that a deal would need to be struck in the next 48 hours if the league's play to start an 82 game schedule in early November is to remain viable. That would give teams nearly two weeks for training camp. It's unclear if any exhibition games would be possible.

With any luck at all today will be remembered as the day the real negotiations to end this lockout began.