NHL Lockout: What to Expect When League and NHLPA Resume CBA Talks This Week

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2012

Gary Bettman
Gary BettmanBruce Bennett/Getty Images

Less than a week after the NHL and NHLPA ended CBA talks in New York City, the two sides will reportedly resume negotiations on Wednesday, according to Mark Spector of Sportsnet:

Meeting tentatively set for Wednesday between NHLPA and NHL. Site TBA.

— Mark Spector Sports (@SportsnetSpec) December 11, 2012

It's difficult to predict how productive this session will be after the NHL explained how last week's talks ended, which included the lack of a "yes or no" on the league's most recent proposal, and the disagreement on issues such as CBA term.

Let's look at what we can expect to be discussed during this week's CBA talks.

 

Will a Season Deadline Be Set?

Gary Bettman said last week that there isn't a deadline to save the season at the moment, but it's hard to imagine that he doesn't have a day in mind, even if it hasn't been formally discussed among the owners.

One of the best ways to force negotiations is to set a date of this kind so both sides understand that time is running out.

If the league wants NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to take negotiations more seriously and not stall or demand more from the owners time and time again, a formal deadline has to be given to the union.

The likely deadline to save the year is mid-January. A deal by then would allow a 48-game regular season schedule to be played from late January through late April or early May.

 

Mid-Level Exemption?

Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports reported that the NHLPA included a mid-level exemption in its most recent offer, which is very interesting.

Still not clear how PA's proposed mid-level cap exemption would work. But told it would be very limited in application. (1)

— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) December 10, 2012

Basically, if contract lengths are limited and cap is lower, stars will make more of pie. Mid-level exemption protects middle class. (2)

— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) December 10, 2012

Mid-level cap exemption would be more cash over cap, which NHL doesn't want. But salaries still subject to escrow, 50% HRR, I believe. (3)

— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) December 10, 2012

Agreeing to this might be the only way for the players accept a five-year term on contracts because the union does not want second and third line caliber players to suffer in the next CBA.

It's hard to determine how a mid-level cap exemption would work with a hard salary cap that the NHL uses. The NBA has a mid-level exception, but also a soft salary cap.

Without a ton of details, it's not easy to figure out how effective this exemption would be in the NHL's cap structure, but it's a creative way for the players to help out a large portion of their union membership against the negative effects of term limits.

If the league doesn't want any part of this mid-level exemption, the NHLPA should fight hard for a six-year term limit on new contracts and an eight-year limit on players re-signing (both one year higher than league's current demands).

 

Transition Rules

At some point, both sides will need to address transition rules. Bettman talked about this issue on Thursday when he said, "We haven't even yet discussed transition rules, which has a cost component as well."

This an important part of the next CBA that could provide a few additional obstacles.

Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press reported some of the information the league has offered to the players regarding this topic.

NHL was proposing a salary cap of $60 million, with one season at $70 million to help teams transition down.

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 7, 2012

According to CapGeek, there are 16 teams with over $60 million committed to salaries for the 2012-13 season, and six with over $65 million.

Moving salary won't be easy because several of these teams have players with hard-to-move contracts because of their lack of on-ice production and high salary.

Expect the high-spending, large market teams to likely have a lot of input on how the transition to the new CBA is made.

Transition rules will greatly affect both sides immediately after the lockout, so expect this issue to be discussed very soon.