After many hours of back-and-forth negotiations on Wednesday, the NHL made a collective bargaining agreement proposal to the NHLPA.
Even though the league did make concessions and move toward the union on some issues, there are still a couple topics in which both sides have yet to make much progress on.
The fact that we had some real negotiations with speed bumps along the way and didn't see the two parties just walk away from each other (which has happened in the past a few times) is a good sign.
Let's look at what the league offered its players on Wednesday night and analyze how close the two sides are on each issue.
"Make Whole" Provision
We knew that the league had to move toward the players a little bit on the "make whole" provision, but did it move far enough with its latest proposal to satisfy the union's needs?
The NHL had proposed $211 million for "make whole" in its previous offer, which was still pretty far apart from the NHLPA's demand of $393 million.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the owners have upped their share to about the middle point between $393 million and $211 million.
Of the $300M NHL proposed for Make Whole, $250M is Make Whole and $50M is for pension funding that would not come out of the players' share.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 6, 2012
However, as TSN's Aaron Ward explains, the players' contracts still won't be completely "made whole."
Devil is in the Details in that it appears it still does not honor actual full value of existing contracts. #TSN— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) December 6, 2012
The union should be pleased that the pension plan will get about $50 million and that the league went higher on the "make whole."
It's very unlikely that the owners will ever come close to the $393 million figure that the players wanted, and the league's current proposal on this issue is pretty fair.
The NHLPA hasn't gotten all that it wants from the league on "make whole" yet, but they are getting closer to finalizing this critical issue.
Player Contract Rights
McKenzie also reports two parts of the league's proposal regarding player contract issues.
What the NHLPA will like about NHL offer: status quo on UFA and salary arbitration.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 6, 2012
Keeping the UFA eligibility rules at 27 years of age or seven years of NHL service is a win for the players and it was expected that the league would soften a bit on these issues, especially if the players gave a little on the economic topics.
Lyle Richardson of Spector's Hockey has some more details about the player contract rights rules from the owners' proposal.
Also, league still wants five year term limit on contracts plus maximum variance yearly variance of 5 percent....— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) December 6, 2012
...Team would also be allowed to re-sign their free agents for up to 7 years. Talks did at times get testy. Will still continue today.— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) December 6, 2012
After reading Richardson's information, it's clear that the two sides are still far apart on term limits and yearly variance. One of these, or maybe even both, will have to change for any more progress to be made on these issues.
If the players were going to fight harder for one more than the other, the term-limit rule is one that the union should battle hard to get rid of.
Teams being able to offer their own players longer contracts than other teams would be a win for small-market teams and something that really needs to happen in the NHL. The NBA has a similar rule in its most recent CBA.
The league, not surprisingly, wants a lengthy deal that could last up to a decade, and even though the NHLPA isn't likely to accept that long of a deal, the opt-out option that McKenzie has revealed does make the offer a bit more acceptable for the players.
Couple of other details emerging: NHL proposal for 10 year CBA term contains an opt-out clause after 8 years. So it could be an 8 year deal.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 6, 2012
It would be a bit surprising if the players made this a bigger issue than it needs to be. Sure, the term is important if you give up too much in the overall CBA, but a 50-50 hockey-related revenue split over eight or 10 years wouldn't be a bad scenario for the players.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So how close are we to an actual deal? While the union certainly won't be thrilled with everything the league has offered, the two sides are closer than they have been at any point in this process.
If the NHLPA cannot get the NHL to make further concessions on any more of the important issues, then having a union vote on this CBA proposal would be a smart decision. This proposal from the league is far more fair than some of its other ones made throughout this lockout.
According to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, both sides will continue to talk at some point on Thursday.
NHL and players' association not expected to meet Thursday before noon Eastern time. PA wants to talk internally before meeting NHL folks— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) December 6, 2012
There are a few more hurdles both sides must jump over to complete a new CBA, but the chances of having a season following Wednesday's talks have gone up since progress continues to be made.
It's unfortunate this kind of negotiating wasn't done months ago, but at least we are closer to having a new CBA now than we were just a few weeks ago.
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