The NHLPA has until January 2 to file their recently approved disclaimer of interest, an action that will most likely result in the CBA talks moving from the bargaining table to the courtroom, as it will allow players to file suit against the NHL.
Before that occurs, the NHLPA will look to strike a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL. Speculation was that the two sides were close to a deal, but that three main sticking points remain on getting a deal done.
With the sides out of contact for some time, it may be worth taking another look at exactly what those three points are.
Length of a New CBA
The NHL wants the new CBA to run for 10 years, with a mutual option to opt out at the eight-year mark. The NHLPA has countered with an offer of eight years and an opt-out after six.
This one feels like a no-brainer to me. The players should take the 10-year deal and be happy with it. The odds of there being some huge shift in the next few years where the players would gain some bargaining strength are slim. The next time these two sides sit down at the bargaining table the NHL side will once again look to take more from the players. It’s not like over the next 10 years a new set of owners is going to roll into the NHL and have a warm and fuzzy feeling toward their high-paid employees. They’re going to want to maximize their profits, and they’ll do this on the backs of their laborers, the players.
The longer the deal, the better for the players. That’s 10 years before they have to worry about the owners going in their pockets again—and have no fear, they will be looking to reach into those pockets again.
This one seems to be a hot-button topic, and maybe for good reason. The NHL wants contracts to be limited to five years, while the NHLPA would accept eight years.
The average NHL career lasts about five and a half seasons, so for the majority of the NHLPA rank and file, this is not even an issue. Most players will get their entry-level deal and an extension after that, and by the sounds of things, for most that extension will not be for more than five years.
The problem from the NHL side of things is the owners can’t seem to keep their general managers from offering contracts with insane term limits. Shea Weber at 14 years, anyone?
The NHLPA issue with the five-year limit is that it will inflate the salaries of the top players and could very likely cause a have-and-have-not situation on the roster, where the team’s stars are making a disproportionate amount compared to the third- and fourth-line players. We already see this in the NBA.
Look at the LA Lakers. The Lakers have $100,365,744 tied up in salary. Of that amount, more than $66 million is going to three players. If you want to compare that to the NHL that would be like the Penguins paying Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury 65 percent of the team’s salaries or more than $39 million. Today, those three contracts equal $22.4 million.
This one could get ugly, because the NHLPA sees the writing on the wall, and no one in the rank and file likes what that writing says with a five-year limit.
The NHL wants no part of allowing teams to buy out existing contracts so that teams can get under what will be a lower salary cap when play resumes. The NHLPA obviously wants this, allowing them to shed contracts and get them under the cap.
There is a solution here, and that is to limit the number of contracts or dollar amount that teams can shed during a buyout period.