Another lengthy bargaining session between the NHL and its players’ union drew to a close at around 9 p.m. Wednesday night, with plans to renew negotiations on Thursday.
Wednesday’s secret talks at an undisclosed location in New York began at 3:30 p.m. and reportedly centered on key economic issues such as revenue sharing and the league’s promise to honor all current contracts.
The players have agreed to eventually reach a 50-50 split on hockey-related revenue, which last season totaled $3.3 billion. It remains to be seen if that 50-50 split will come in the first three years of the CBA.
The “make whole” provision introduced by the owners on Oct. 16 is expected to be the main topic of Thursday’s discussions. If the owners can find a way to honor all current contracts with guaranteed deferred payments there is a good chance there will be hockey played this season, possibly as early as Black Friday.
The fact both sides have agreed to meet for a third straight day on Thursday is “a good sign,” according to one team executive.
Among the topics believed to have been addressed on Wednesday was a one-time amnesty allowance that would permit teams to buy out contracts without them counting against the salary cap.
Following the 2004-05 lockout, teams were given six days to buy out player contracts.
NHLPA executive director Don Fehr has made it clear that the players are not willing to make all the concession in these negotiations and if they agree to a 50-50 split in revenues within the first three years. As a result, the players will want longer contract lengths and an earlier window for free agency.
“The issues the players are concerned about remain the same,” Fehr said Tuesday. “The players haven't seen any need to go backward, given the history of the last negotiations and given the level of revenue increase since then. Player-contracting rights are very important to them.
“Before we have any agreement, both sides have to see everything on paper and make sure that they all understand it right. That’s about all I can say about it at this stage. I don’t want to prejudge or indicate that I have any particular impressions or expectations. That’s what the meetings are for.”