NHL Lockout: Point-by-Point Breakdown of the NHL's Latest CBA Offer
The big news coming out of the NHL lockout talks on Tuesday was that the league had presented the players association with a new offer.
The offer, if the tweets from TSN insider Darren Dreger are to be believed, is a far cry from the original offer the NHL tabled prior to the lockout. The current offer seems like a very solid starting point and something that could, with some tweaking, save an 82-game 2012-13 NHL season.
The NHLPA held a conference call in the afternoon regarding the offer and the ball is in their court, but they don't have much time to decide on what their next step is going to be. According to Bob McKenzie, in order to salvage the 82-game season, the NHL will need to open training camps by October 26.
What follows are the key points that Dreger revealed throughout the day and my feelings on what they mean.
Entry-Level Contracts Go from 3 Years to 2 Years
In almost every collective bargaining agreement, the younger members of the union are often the ones forced to offer the biggest concessions. Is that fair? That depends on your level of seniority. If you have 10 years under your belt and have paid your dues, so to speak, you are going to think it’s totally fair; if you’re signing your first contract, you’re not going to be too enthused.
Anyway, this is a small price to pay for the greater good. Will it help the owners more than the players? You bet it will.
This change will allow ownership to move away from a highly touted rookie that flopped, saving the team one year on salary. It will also put the youngsters under more pressure to perform in order to be rewarded in their third year with a bigger and better contract.
The players should accept this change.
5-Year Term Limit on Contracts
This one is a huge loser for the players. Everyone wants stability in their lives. You want it. I want it. It makes us comfortable, lets us know that we’re safe and secure, and makes us feel wanted.
Yes, it’s true that you can be traded under a lengthy contract, but knowing that the team you are traded to is going to pay X millions of dollars takes some of the sting away if you have to move from, say, Philadelphia to Los Angeles.
The players are not going to be fans of this one, and they shouldn’t be. This stipulation is put in to protect the owners from themselves and the long term, franchise-debilitating contracts they love so much.
The management shouldn’t get a pass on their bad decisions.
This is going to be a sticking point and a possible bargaining item. I can see it getting into the new CBA in some form, maybe in a seven- to eight-year limit and then being bargained down in future negotiations. Is this a deal breaker? Maybe.
Salary Variance of No More Than 5 Percent over the Course of the Contract
This is a strange one. Again, it looks like it was instituted to protect the owners from themselves. What this stipulation cuts out is the front-loaded contract. With this rule in place, you won’t see deals with the first year worth $10 million and the last year worth $1 million. You’ll see the first year worth $10 million and the last year worth $10.5 million, at best.
I don’t see this being a huge deal for the players—that is, if their agents can get them a solid deal. Players are going to have to come in strong when it’s time to negotiate.
The ones that may suffer here are the aging players. Those with the longest tenure in the union may see smaller contracts in their twilight years, but that’s a big maybe, as we have seen ownership throw some crazy dollars after veteran players.
This may cause some temporary pain, but long term, we all know the owners can’t help themselves and will continue to throw crazy money around.
Like the five-year term, this is something that will be negotiated. Look for the players to look for a higher percentage and the two sides to eventually meet somewhere above five percent, but less than 15 percent.
Unrestricted Free Agency Changes
Currently, players are eligible for free agency after seven years of service or 27 years of age; the proposal would see that move to eight and 28.
This is not nearly as extreme as I thought the NHL would seek.
The players should accept this—if they open it up to negotiation, I would suspect the deal to get worse for the players.
Salary Arbitration Eligibility Will Move from Year 4 to Year 5
Like the movement of the eligibility for free agency, this is a minor move, and it should probably be accepted.
In the league's original offer, there was to be no arbitration rights.
Again, if this opens to negotiation, look for this to come off the table with a far uglier proposal coming back for the players.
This is the big one, and the owners have taken a big step up on this one, going to a 50-50 split. This is a huge improvement over their original offer of 43 percent; on the other hand, it’s also a huge drop from the 57 percent share the players enjoyed in the last deal.
To be realistic, the players are not going to get 57 percent, no matter how long they try to play hard ball. No other league with a salary cap enjoys that type of split, and the NHL won’t get it, either.
This is where things will get interesting and we’ll see if the NHLPA is living in the reality of the current economic environment or if they are just being stubborn.
If the deal is long term, I would say the players should take the 50-50 split, depending on the issue that follows.
Making Sure the Players Get Money That Is in Current Contracts
Reports indicate that the offer includes some type of deferred payment plan that will ensure that players get the money owed to them on their current deals. This is huge, as it means no salary rollbacks to the players.
I would think that this is something the players are going to have to grab, or they may leave the table in the next offer.
My view is from a very high, outside level and with very little information, but if the reports are correct and there is nothing really egregious hiding in the details, I would think a majority of the union will approve of this deal.
There's also the whole matter of saving an 82-game schedule, which would mean the players would lose none of their 2012-13 salaries. That’s huge. Yes, the Stanley Cup Final will be delayed, but so what? The players will get paid, the fans will see a full season, and the owners will (hopefully) have full arenas.
Is this deal great for the players? No, but it’s a big improvement than all others before it.