For better or worse, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr have been invited back to the NHL’s bargaining table.
After an all-nighter Wednesday night that concluded at 1 a.m. Thursday, representatives from the NHL and its players’ association returned to negotiations Thursday morning, with Bettman and Fehr back in charge.
Although NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly described Wednesday night’s marathon talks as “good, candid dialogue,” he also cautioned that “critical issues” remain as the players mull over the owners’ most recent counter-proposal.
Believed to be among those issues:
- Make whole: The NHL reportedly increased its “make whole” total from $211 million to $300 million. Since the union requested $393 million in honored contracts, the gap between the two sides has been reduced from $182 million to $93 million. But there’s a catch. Of that $300 million proposed by the NHL, $250 million would go towards the “make-whole” provision and $50 million would go toward player pensions.
- Length of CBA: The owners are now seeking a 10-year term with an opt-out after Year 8. The players were seeking a five-year term but are willing to extend the length if the owners allow contract rights to remain the same.
- Contract rights: The owners have backed off on their request for unrestricted free agency at age 28, allowing for that age to remain at 27. The owners have also agreed to keep restricted free agency and arbitration rights unchanged.
- Contract lengths: The owners have softened slightly on their proposal for maximum contract lengths of five years, saying teams that own the rights to an approaching UFA can offer them seven-year contracts, but are standing firm on contracts not going above or below 5 percent of its average value. The players do not want restrictions on lengths of contracts, even though it would be a built-in safeguard for teams guilty of signing players like Rick DiPietro and Chris Pronger to long-term, guaranteed contracts.
In other words, there is still work to be done through the remainder of today and – in all likelihood – through the weekend before the key can be turned to unlock this three-month standoff.
Can Bettman and Fehr get this done? Or will talks break off again without an agreement? Join the conversation below: