The welcomed term traction has finally become a buzzword in the CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA this weekend. The second-in-commands for both the NHLPA, lead counsel Steve Fehr, and the NHL, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, met at an undisclosed location on Saturday into the wee hours of Sunday, and both sounded hopeful tones after the meeting was over.
That it happened just 24 hours after the league cancelled the Winter Classic was a curious case of timing.
The long face-to-face exchange of ideas should lead to more bargaining sessions, and could be the first step toward a new deal that could save the season. Daly sounded optimistic on Sunday morning, but in true secretive fashion neither side was willing to share much of what was discussed during the long Saturday night meeting.
We had a series of meetings over the course of the day and had a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us, said Daly after it was over.
Fehr echoed Dalys sentiments on Sunday morning, but there was a sign much more encouraging than the curt statements from both high-level execs. The fact that none of their discussions have leaked into the media shows two sides that are looking to make a deal rather than win the next round in a prolonged PR battle.
"I agree with what Bill said," said Fehr in a separate statement. "Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group, and make steady progress."
While both sides have already essentially agreed that Hockey Related Revenue will drop to a 5050 split between the league and the players, the rapidity of reaching the even split is still believed to be a sticking point. But perhaps the biggest subject of discussion between the two sides is the make whole provision offered by the NHL in their last proposal.
The make whole agreement would guarantee that players will receive all of the money owed to them in contracts signed prior to the CBA expiration, but the original offer essentially boiled down to players-paying-players in deferred installments over time. Its believed the two sides are now discussing NHL ownership funding a portion of the make whole provision, and both sides perhaps agreeing to an escrow cap that will limit the money taken from players.
Its the kind of topic that only an economics major would dream about discussing, but it also might be the key to new CBA getting hammered out in the next few weeks. Right now its just a nice beginning to the process, but an agreement in the coming weeks could pave the way for a shortened 64-game season along with a full complement of Stanley Cup playoffs.
The NHL and the players will look to make more positive steps next week, and hopefully expand the process toward an agreement.