End of the the NHL lockout?
Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer’s initial response to the NHL’s newest proposal to end the lockout was short and sweet.
“We feel that it’s about time,” Brouwer told CSNWashington.com. “We gave the last proposal and we’ve been waiting for the league to start talking.”
The NHL’s latest proposal looks very much like the owners made back on Dec. 7, only this time they increased maximum contract lengths from five years to six [the players have lobbied for eight] and fattened the year-to-year variance of those contracts from 5 percent to 10 percent [the players proposed 25 percent].
“It’s a good step forward that the sides are in communication and more ideas are being thrown around,” Brouwer said. “It’s a sign that hopefully things are going forward.”
In other words, the owners’ latest proposal is a start, not a finish.
“There are still some issues that are fairly large issues for players,” Brouwer said. “But there is and always has been a framework we can work off to try and find a deal. There has to be some bargaining back and forth and both sides need to be willing to come to an agreement that fits both sides.”
Last week, Capitals left wing Jason Chimera told CSNWashington that one of the biggest concerns for players was how the league’s proposed $60 million salary cap would impact player salaries. Chimera said the result could be players placing 30 percent of their income in escrow accounts.
“It’s a very large concern,” Brouwer said. “Any time you have a drastic reduction in the cap you have to find a way to get inside the rules and regulations. That is a very big concern for the players, whether it’s a straight rollback of salaries or escrows, the players have to pay and it’s still a very large reduction in player salaries. Guys aren’t exactly thrilled about that aspect of it.”
With a current payroll of $63.6 million, the Capitals are one of 16 NHL teams that are above the proposed ceiling, which would not take effect until next season. Until then teams can spend up to the limit of $70.2 million. Under the owners’ proposal, teams also would be granted one buyout before next season, with the player’s salary not counting against the cap.
The Caps might choose to buy out a player such as winger Joel Ward, who has three years [including this season] and $9 million left on his contract, or they may wait until the summer.
That, of course, is putting the cart before the horse.
What stands before the players now is a chance to end the lockout and salvage an abbreviated season of about 50 games.
So are the two sides any closer to playing hockey today than they were at any other time during these negotiations?
“It’s tough to say,” Brouwer said. “We’ve gone over the bullet points. Any time someone hands you a stack of papers you have to go through them thoroughly and make sure the wording and the language is proper and not hiding anything.
“At this point we’re still trying to go through such an extensive document, but I’m still very optimistic a season can be put together and we can get some games in and hopefully have a successful season.”