The holiday cold war between the NHL and the NHLPA thawed a bit on Friday when it was revealed that the NHL had put together a new offer for the NHLPA to consider. Somewhat surprisingly, the deal moved a bit toward the NHLPA side of things.
That's not to say that the NHL is really "giving" anything to the NHLPA, it is really just taking less than it had originally wanted to take. But it is a move in the right direction.
There were many changes in the offer, which ESPN.com details here, but there are four important clauses that will catch the eye of the NHLPA rank and file.
The salary cap will be $70.2 million for the 2013 season, but will fall to $60 million for the 2014 season. The $70.2 million number is a positive, but that $60 million number will be a beast for several teams. As of now, 16 NHL teams have payrolls in excess of $60 million.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are barely over that number at $60,989,333, while the Boston Bruins lead the pack at $68,867,976. A number of the teams that are over the proposed $60 million cap will need to do some quick evaluating to see what contracts they can shed to remain competitive while still landing under the cap.
One saving grace for the teams over the proposed $60 million cap is that every team will be allowed one “Compliance Buy-Out.” This will allow the team to buy a player out of his contract without the buyout number going against the cap.
This will allow a team like the Montreal Canadiens to fall below the $60 million cap limit with ease. If the Canadiens buy Scott Gomez out of his deal, they will shed $7.357 million from their $63.897 million payroll. For a team like the NY Rangers, who are under the cap at $59.258 million, they can shake Wade Redden’s $6.5 million loose and become players on the free agent market.
The “Compliance Buy-Out” clause is something that was needed so that teams can get under the cap.
The NHL has also softened its stance a bit on contract terms. In earlier offers, the league had proposed a maximum of five years on contract length. That has been upgraded a bit as the league has proposed a six-year limit (seven when the team re-signs its own player).
There were no contract limits in the previous CBA, which led to some very long deals that many felt were working around the intent of the previous collective bargaining agreement. So the NHL is adamant that some type of limits are in the next deal.
Related to the length of contracts is the salary variance. As of now, there is no limit to how a contract can change form year to year over the length of the deal. That is how players like Shea Webber can get paid $14 million in the first year of his contract and only $1 million in the last year of his deal.
The NHL is not happy with those front-loaded deals and will look to end the practice in the next CBA. Their early offers limited that variance at five percent, while the latest offer caps the year-to-year variance at 10 percent.
This, like the contract limits, is a must from the NHL side of things.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has the players believing in his wait-and-see stance on negotiations. So this latest offer could go one of two ways.
The movement from the NHL could get the NHLPA back to the table and thinking it's close to time to vote on the offer. The second option is a little darker. The offer may leave Fehr thinking the NHL still has more to give before it throws out its best and last offer.
Things still remain on some shaky ground here, but at least there is some action, which is much more than we could say a week ago.