NHL rejects players' offer, plans to meet again

NHL rejects players' offer, plans to meet again
November 21, 2012, 5:45 pm

Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, right, and Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) skate during the second period of the NHL Winter Classic outdoor hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

After rejecting a proposal by the players that Don Fehr described as “about as good as we can do,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman summed up Wednesday’s discussions on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in these words.

“We’re still far apart,” Bettman told reporters in New York. “But hopefully there’s some momentum so we can bring this to a conclusion.”

While it’s true some progress was made Wednesday with the players’ new proposal, bringing this lockout to a conclusion will take several more days at the bargaining table and a whole lot of concessions on both sides.

In other words, another large chunk of NHL games will be wiped out before an agreement is reached.

In their one-hour proposal, detailed here in a memo by Fehr, the players agreed to split a percentage of league revenue rather than demand a guaranteed share. The players also agreed to an immediate 50-50 split in league revenue in Year 1 of the deal, but still want $391 million paid out to them on existing contracts.

After two hours of discussion in a second meeting on Wednesday, the NHL said it would not budge from its $211 million offer to “make whole” on those contracts.

That leaves the two sides about $180 million apart on the issue of honoring existing contracts. While that may not seem like a deal breaker, Bettman noted that the NHL is losing between $18 million and $20 million per day during the lockout, while players are losing $8 million to $10 million per day.

“Assuming we can dig our collective way out of the hole that we're digging ourselves into, we expect that the players would make, under the seven-year term that we proposed, between $12 and $14 billion.

“We're having a tough time understanding why what we have proposed and what we have proposed previously hasn't been accepted.”

Well, it’s pretty simple. If you break down $12 billion in salaries over seven years, that averages $1.7 billion per year. Last year, players made a total of $1.9 billion and their original proposals had that figure climbing to $2.06 billion in Year 3 of a new CBA.  

The players also rejected the owners’ demands on player contracting rights, such as changing unrestricted free agency to age 28, shortening entry-level contracts to two years, and placing five-year term limits on contracts.

“On the big things there was, as of today, no reciprocity in any meaningful sense,” Fehr told reporters.

So where do the two sides go from here?

Fehr said he would inform the players of Wednesday’s developments via conference call. And while no formal negotiations are scheduled, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA general counsel Steve Fehr are expected to speak again on Friday.

“They're going to evaluate where they are,” Bettman said, “and they said they're going to get back to us on Friday.”