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5 Issues That Must Be Addressed Before the NHL Lockout Can End

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2012

5 Issues That Must Be Addressed Before the NHL Lockout Can End

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    The NHL and NHLPA appear to be digging in for a serious lockout.

    This does not appear to be one that will end in days or a couple of weeks.

    That's the way Gary Bettman has done it in the past, and the presence of Donald Fehr on the players' side doesn't mean Bettman is going to quietly fold his cards.

    He wants to show he's a tough guy.

    So instead of both sides heading to the negotiating table, hockey fans are getting the waiting game. We'll see who can outwait the other and how much of the season gets scrubbed as a result.

    But there are concrete issues to discuss once a more reasonable approach is taken.

    Here's a look at five crucial issues.

Salaries

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    This is by far the biggest issue in this lockout.

    The NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman want to reduce the amount of money that is being paid to players.

    In the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expired Sept. 15, players were paid 57 percent of hockey-related revenues.

    In the latest offer the league has made to players, that percentage would be reduced to 49 percent in the first year, according to the Toronto Star. In the final years of the deal, that percentage would be 47 percent.

    NHL players accepted a 24 percent salary rollback in the last CBA to get to the 57 percent level and feel like they are being asked to take it on the chin again. They are willing to accept some reduction, but not as much as the owners are asking.

Revenue Sharing

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    The players want to use revenue sharing to help make up for the financial losses that some teams are absorbing.

    While there is revenue sharing now, the players want to see it expanded so more of the financial burden is taken off their backs.

    According to the Toronto Star, the top money-making teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs pay into the system and teams that are losing money are the beneficiaries.

    Currently, teams pays about $150 million into that system. The players want that figure to increase to $250 million.

    Ownership is willing to increase the amount it is paying, but not up to the players' requested level.

CBA Term

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    This seems to be an issue that will be settled fairly easily once the first two issues have been solved.

    The NHL initially wanted a four-year deal and has come up to five years. The players first asked for a seven-year deal and has come down to six.

    Both sides have already given a little and one or the other will have to come off of its position.

Player Contract Length

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    The NHL currently does not have any term limits on player contracts.

    As a result, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to offer Nashville defenseman a 14-year, $110-million deal (source: thehockeynews.com), thinking that the Nashville Predators would not be able to match it. The Preds swallowed hard and will keep their hard-shooting defenseman.

    However, the NHL no longer wants these long-term contracts. They want to limit the length to five years.

    The NHLPA has not responded to this, but it seems reasonable that some limitation on the term of a player's contract will be part of the CBA.

    Seven or eight years seems more reasonable than the five years that has been offered.

Escrow Payment

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    Players currently have a percentage of their salaries paid into an escrow account (source: Canada.com). The purpose of this account is to make sure players don't get a higher share of the salaries than the CBA allows.

    During the first quarter of the 2011-12 season, that figure was 8.5 percent (source: ESPN.com).

    Players are concerned that the struggling teams in the league like the Phoenix Coyotes allow the owners to retain that money and keep it from getting to the players.

    As a result, poor ownership and mismanagement become player issues. The players suffer when money-losing teams use the escrow funds to cover their financial problems.

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