Last month, after the hiring of Adam Oates as head coach of the Capitals,club owner Ted Leonsis talked about the building blocks that were put in place underDale Hunter last season and the need to advance past the second round of theplayoffs.Asked abut his level of concern there would be a season on which to continue that building process,Leonsis cut the interview in its tracks.Im not going to talk at all about the CBA, he said, declining to commentfurther.On Friday in New York,Leonsis was on the NHL negotiating committee that met with Donald Fehr and membersof the NHL players association. The league was also represented bycommissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Bruins owner JeremyJacobs and Wild owner Craig Leipold, along with legal counsel.Along with Fehr, the players were represented by his assistant, former NHLdefenseman Mathieu Schneider, Scott Hartnell of the Flyers, Manny Malhotra ofthe Canucks, Kevin Westgarth of the Kings and free agent Shane Doan.And while both sides characterized the talks as candid, they also agreedthere is a lot of work to be done between now and Sept. 15, when the currentCBA expires.There is a process that collective bargaining entails and were movingthrough that process, Bettman told reporters. I havent put a stopwatch on ityet. Theres obviously a lot of work to be done in a relatively short period oftime, but I think we can work toward that goal and accomplish that goal.The NHLs initial proposal reportedly includes a reduction of the playerspercentage of league revenue -- reportedly 3.2 billion last season -- from 57 percent to 46 percent; lengthening unrestrictedfree agency from seven years of service to 10; stretching restricted free agency fromthree years to five; and reducing the maximum length of contracts to fiveyears, with no signing bonuses.All those tempted to chuckle at that last proposal can do so now afterseeing the 14-year offer sheet the Flyers gave Nashville's Shea Weber.Fehr says he needs more time to digest the NHLs initial proposal before constructinga counter proposal. The two sides are scheduled to meet again in Toronto on Tuesday, Thursdayand Friday of this week and Fehr may tackle some of the periphery issues likerealignment, player safety and participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics beforegetting into the nitty gritty of revenue sharing and salary floors andceilings.Progress can consist of having the discussions and clearing out theunderbrush, Fehr told reporters. It could consist of making or withdrawingproposals on either side. It could consist of trying to focus on certainthings. It's hard to say.Were having a lot of internal discussions, but when we get to the pointwhere we are going to respond formally to the proposal they made by counterproposal or separate proposal, everybody will know. We're not there yet.Its fair to say the reason the players are not ready to make acounter-proposal is that they were blown away that the owners would start withsuch a reduction in revenue sharing.Ultimately, the two sides will argue over how that revenue is reported likely won't come to an agreement until major concessions are made on virtually every issue.For the NHL to start on time next season, hockey related revenues will need to be split down themiddle. The players will need to have a say in realignment. A maximum contract lengthof five years may be countered with a soft salary cap of 80 million with a 15percent luxury tax. Unrestricted free agency may be extended from seven yearsto eight years, but not 10.In other words, there is a lot of negotiating that needs totake place if the NHL wants to avoid its first work stoppage since 2004. And asBettman noted, not a lot of time to do it.But take heart, hockey fans. At least this time the twosides are talking.
NHL, players have a lot of work to do
July 22, 2012, 4:30 pm