The NHL has finally given the NHLPA a new CBA proposal to consider, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. The league has softened its stance on some of the key issues that are important to the players.
An NHL player says the NHL made a new offer to the NHLPA on Thursday, one which moved on contract term limits, buyouts and variance...— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
At this point there is no scheduled meeting between both sides set for today. NHLPA needs time to review lengthy and detailed offer from NHL— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
Let's break down the information we have on the latest proposal from the owners and determine if there is a chance it will actually lead to a deal that will end the lockout and save the 2012-13 season.
Player Contract Term Limits
According to LeBrun, the NHL has moved toward the NHLPA on player contract term limits, which is a huge win for the union.
NHL offer calls for term limit on player contracts to be six years (7 if you're re-signing your own guys).— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
The previous offer from the owners demanded a five-year limit on new contracts (seven if you re-sign with your own team, which has remained the same in the latest offer, per LeBrun's tweet above), and to make a deal with the players, they almost had to soften on this issue.
The players were likely never going to accept a five-year limit on new contracts, but six years is a little better.
Now that the owners have moved on the issue which deputy commissioner Bill Daly called "the hill we will die on," hopefully we are now closer to a compromise on this very important issue.
The "make whole" provision was "off the table," according to Gary Bettman when he spoke to the media on December 6 in New York City. As many expected, it's back on the table (if it was actually ever taken off).
Also the Make Whole $$$$ stays at $300 million— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
The players need a good portion of the contracts that they have already signed to be honored in the next agreement. The owners know this, and that's why the "make whole" provision hasn't gone away since it was introduced in October.
As long as the NHL doesn't go under $300 million on the "make whole" provision, it's hard to imagine this issue being a major stumbling block to getting a deal done.
Salary Cap, Salary Variance, Buyouts
UPDATE: Friday, December 28 at 12:45 p.m. ET by Nicholas Goss
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the owners have increased their proposed salary variance by five percent.
Among the changes in the new proposal, the NHL adjusted its max contract length from 5 to 6 yrs. Boosted the variance from 5% to 10%.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 28, 2012
This probably won't be enough of an increase to satisfy the players, but it's encouraging to see the owners willing to move toward the players on this issue.
---End of Update---
Player says new league offer still calls for salary cap to be $60 M for 2013-14 season, which could be an issue (escrow).— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
New offer sees each team afforded one compliance buyout prior to 2013-14 season. Doesn't count vs. cap but it does vs. players' share— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
The players won't like a $60 million salary cap because it lessens the amount of money available for player salaries, but since the players' share of hockey-related revenue (HRR) is going to drop by seven percent in the new agreement, a lower cap ceiling was inevitable.
As for buyouts, it would be hard for several teams to shave $10 million in salary off their payroll in just one season to get under the new cap ceiling of about $60 million without different ways to buy out players.
It seems that teams will have at least one buyout option in the next CBA (as LeBrun notes in the tweet above), but having it impact the union's share of HRR isn't something that the NHLPA will like.
LeBrun noted in the first tweet used in this article that the league's stance on salary variance (which is the yearly change of a player's salary) has changed, which is another win for the players.
We know that the owners wanted a five percent salary variance in early December, but we don't know what they are demanding on this issue in their new offer. If the league went to 20 percent on salary variance, we might see a quick resolution to this issue.
It's good to see the owners soften on some salary issues, but more work remains to ensure that both sides agree on these topics.
One part of the last CBA offer from the owners that hasn't changed in their latest offer is the proposed length of the agreement, according to John Shannon of Sportsnet.ca:
Can confirm the NHL made counter late last night. Improved on term,variance and amnesty. Still 10 year deal.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) December 28, 2012
The players were not willing to accept a 10-year CBA term when the two sides met for labor talks earlier this month, but with the NHL making some moves toward the players in its latest offer, the players' union may be more likely to accept this kind of term.
As I wrote on Monday, there are more reasons why a 10-year term is a good idea than a bad idea.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The biggest question that needs to be answered is if this new offer from the NHL is the same kind of take-it-or-leave-it proposal that was made to the players in New York City earlier this month.
If the league is willing to negotiate off this proposal, then it's hard to imagine an agreement not being reached by the drop-dead date to save the season.
My sources say owners have privately informed Bettman cancelling the season is not an acceptable option.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 28, 2012
A league source said the NHL wants camps to open Jan. 12th— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 28, 2012
The above tweets give hockey fans reasons to be optimistic about the 2012-13 NHL season, but it should be pointed out that the owners will not agree to just any CBA in order to save the season. Compromises will have to come from both sides for a deal to be made.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News has reported a possible timetable if a CBA is made by early January.
I'm hearing NHL has targeted Jan. 19 as potential start date. Would like week-long camp. Wants this deal done by Jan. 10, 11.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) December 28, 2012
Hopefully, this new offer from the league can be used as a way to create more negotiations so a new CBA can be reached by the first week of January. The NHL's latest proposal is a step in the right direction, but both sides will need to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate for this lockout to end soon.
As always, the NHLPA's reaction to this proposal will tell us how good it really is.