Both the NHL and the NHLPA aren't scheduled to meet again before the September 15 deadline after talks were put on recess last Friday, but Gary Bettman will take a vote at an NHL Board of Governors meeting on September 13.
This vote will determine whether or not the owners are in favor of Bettman's proposal to lock out the players after September 15 if an agreement is not struck.
The last time the two sides met, each claimed the other orchestrated the recess, but at this point, it doesn't matter because it appears that the league is headed towards its third lockout under commissioner Gary Bettman's watch.
UPDATE: September 5,2012 12:39 PM
Larry Brooks of the New York Post provides this update that should also be taken into account in the context of what will be voted on at the September 13th meeting.
The Post has learned the NHL proposals feature a “management rights” clause under which the league would assume unilateral power over issues including realignment, scheduling and playoff format.
The union refused to give its assent last year to the league’s proposed realignment plan for 2012-13 that would have created a four-conference (division) format, with attendant changes in scheduling and playoff structure.
The NHL has proposed the union accept massive cuts in payrolls effective immediately, while the players have proposed reduced payroll growth accompanied by significant revenue-sharing targeting to the league’s neediest franchises.
The NHL just seems to be throwing everything at the NHLPA but the kitchen sink so when the two sides finally negotiate, it looks likes some concessions will have been made. Giving any one side unilateral control over something is never a good thing.
*End of Update
Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com broke the story when NHL governors anonymously commented on the subject.
According to governors, who spoke anonymously with CSNPhilly.com, Bettman will outline where both sides are in the collective-bargaining process.
He will then ask them—via a vote—whether they are supportive of his strategy to lock the players out on Sept. 15 if there is no agreement on a new, long-term—not short-term—CBA.
Separately, two agents, who more or less represent the pulse of many players in the league, said both sides are preparing—and have been—for a lockout.
This is an interesting situation because it will be the first time that there will be a sense on how close the NHL is to making a deal. Bettman speaks for the owners, and it will really be informative to see what governors are in support of a lockout and what governors are still looking to make a deal.
Give or take a few names, here is the most comprehensive list of the NHL Board of Governors.
At this point, it appears the NHL is headed for a lockout, but once the results of this vote are out, the NHLPA may be able to gain some leverage if it's lopsided. If the majority of the governors—most of whom are team owners—are against a lockout, the NHLPA can turn the screws to the league in an attempt to get a deal done.
On the other side, if most governors are on the side of Bettman, another lockout is bound to happen.
The most recent proposal from the NHL would have the players sign a six-year collective bargaining agreement that knocks their cut of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent. The NHLPA wanted a four-year CBA, but their revenue cut would stay at 57 percent.
One of the next big sticking points is a salary-cap number, and according to Kevin Allen of USA Today, some progress needs to be made because the current proposal isn't a favorable one:
The NHL proposal calls for a fixed salary cap of $58 million next season and then caps of $60 million and $62 million. Under the plan, the league projected a fourth-year salary cap of $64.2 million, a fifth year at $67.6 million and the final season's cap of $71.1 million.
Last season's salary cap was $64.3 million, and the cap was projected to rise to $70.2 million in 2012-13.
The NHL is not asking for any rollback in current contracts, suggesting that the adjustment could be made through changes in contracting practices, increases in league-wide revenue and contributions to player escrow.
For starters, these figures would cripple a few teams heading into next summer, and it is a hypocritical proposal.
Gary Bettman has been firm in his stance, saying, "We believe we're paying out more than we should be," but how can he say that when he represents owners that signed players to massive paydays in free agency and contract extensions?
How can Bettman claim this when owners are handing out money to these players, but they now want a do-over and a reduction?
These are the facts that are currently facing the NHL and the NHLPA. With the only major meetings scheduled closer to the deadline, fans have a legitimate reason to be concerned. However, this tweet from Darren Dreger can give some peace of mind:
As ominous as things may seem, the real negotiating won't start for either the NHL or PA until or around Sept. 10.
—Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) August 31, 2012
As the days grow closer to the deadline, the sense of urgency for both sides will increase. September 5 is not the day to cave in and make concessions, but September 14 or 15 could be for either side.
There is more at stake now than there was during the 2004 lockout, and it is hard to believe that the NHL and NHLPA would risk the start of the season after another year of record-setting revenue.
A shortened season would certainly put a damper on things; it wouldn't allow an adequate buildup for the Winter Classic, and dates from the massive new TV contract with NBC could be missed or rearranged.
There is still time to get a deal done, but both sides need to negotiate in good faith in order for that to happen.