Talks break with no counteroffer
The NHL and NHLPA remained at an impasse in the latest round of collective bargaining talks as the deadline for a lockout looms.
The players' association took issue Wednesday with the latest NHL proposal that commissioner Gary Bettman called ''meaningful'' and ''significant.''
Donald Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, and his assistants have broken down Bettman's latest offering. Fehr is expected to make a counterproposal as early as Thursday.
The two sides are at odds over hockey-related revenue. The league wants to knock down the players' percentage to 46. The players' share of HRR was 57 percent last season. Fehr said changes in how HRR is calculated would see the amount of money players give up to escrow increase ''significantly.'' Under the NHL's proposal, the union said current contracts would not be paid in full.
''From a players' standpoint, you should understand, it doesn't make much of a difference,'' Fehr said Wednesday. ''Should the player not get the dollar value that is on his contract because there is a rollback, which is simply a name for crossing out one number and writing in another, or whether he doesn't get an amount because there is escrow, he still doesn't get it.''
The current CBA expires Sept. 15 and the league has said it will lock the players out if a new agreement isn't in place by then. Bettman says he's content to wait for that aforementioned response from the union, but declared that players shouldn't feel any ''entitlement'' to 57 percent of revenues.
Unlike the current CBA in which salaries are tied into revenues, the league's plan calls for the first three years to be separated from HRR. Also, HRR would be redefined in the final three years of the six-year CBA.
The cap ceiling would drop to $58 million for next season. It would rise to $60 million in 2013-14 and top out at a projected $71 million in 2017-18.
The league and players set the cap ceiling for the 2012-13 season at $70.2 million in a joint statement released in June.
That means 16 teams would be forced to shed varying amounts of salary under the league's proposal. A short list of those teams are the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, Calgary Flames owner Murray Edwards, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke are on the league's negotiating committee.
Limiting the personnel at the bargaining table in the hope of making progress, only Fehr and his top assistant, Steve Fehr, met with Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly when the second proposal was issued Tuesday. Traditionally, several players have joined in on the talks.
Hockey-related revenue is the figure used to calculate the salary cap, with players receiving 57 percent, and the NHL has proposed changes that would lessen the total pot available.
''What we're trying to do with the definition of changes is better reflect the reality,'' Bettman said.
Fehr said the changes have served to complicate negotiations.
The proposal the league tabled Tuesday called for revenues to be split 50-50 for the final three years. However, by the union's calculation, the actual number players would end up receiving is equivalent to 46 percent under the current system - a claim Bettman acknowledged to be ''in the ballpark.''
With the ambiguity created by the redefinition of HRR, not to mention a smaller pot of money to draw salaries from, the players are calling for the status quo.
''From our side, it's better to leave things the same because everyone understands what they mean and everyone understands what the effect is,'' Fehr said. ''It makes it much easier that way.''
Bettman said the time is right for a change.
He said the reduction in the players' share of HRR would be 11.5 percent next season, 8.5 percent in 2013-14 and 5.5 percent in 2014-15. He expects the players' share to rise beginning in the fourth year, stating that the league believes it ''would have caught up."
''The fact of the matter is if the players have been getting 57 percent, we were getting 43 percent,'' he said, ''and we were paying all the expenses of running the game, running the league and running our clubs.
''(If there's) any sense that our initial offer didn't have any sense of fairness to it, then you need to consider what is fair looking at both sides.''
Bettman said the NHL still wants to make a deal on a ''timely basis.''
Talks are expected to resume Thursday afternoon.