NHL, NHLPA continue to talk, need to get more serious

NHL, NHLPA continue to talk, need to get more serious
November 20, 2012, 5:29 am
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Its high time that somebody makes a move.

The NHL and NHLPA have piled up the rhetoric and even made some egregious errors along the way. Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg can attest to after his embarrassingly inappropriate comments on Monday afternoon painting Gary Bettman and Bill Daly as league cancers that need to be cut out of the NHL. Theres simply no place for that kind of epic stupidity and ignorance in whats essentially a stone, cold business negotiation.

It's time to leave the schoolyard trash-talking crap behind, and make sure every move is one calculated toward forming an agreement with the NHL.

Its well established both sides think theyre in the right, and could prove how stubborn they are if it was merely all about digging their heels in to prove they were correct. But its not about that and its never been about that. Instead its always been about constructing an agreement that both sides can live with while making certain there is a 2012-13 NHL regular season.

With that in mind both sides put all the noise aside and met once again at the NHL offices on Monday evening. There were 18 players along with the Fehr brothers representing the NHLPA. A series of NHL owners led by Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs along with CBA negotiations newcomer Brian Burke filled out the league roster. Of course Gary Bettman and Bill Daly were on hand as well after a rough public relations week for them. The NHLs proposed two-week moratorium could have only been worse if Guy Fieri came up with the idea, and to make matters worse -- the full support of NHL ownership was brought into question in a story out of Philly that Flyers owner Ed Snider was souring on the lockout process.

With all of that new blood involved there was hope for some much-needed progress, and perhaps there will still be some in the following days. But on Monday the NHLPA had no formalized offer to hand over to the league, and instead the two sides spent over 90 minutes talking about concepts and ideas. The NHL wouldnt allow any discussion of player contract rights without an entire offer to pore through, and that didnt happen on Monday.

So with that in mind it appears the time has come to finally get serious about the season, and by connection get serious about an actual, real-life negotiation.

To this point both the NHL and the NHLPA have been more worried about revealing their respective poker hands than any actual concern about losing the entire regular season.

But the time for fun and games is over.

The players need to put their heads together and give the NHL something to chew on that can build a framework for deeper discussion leading to a finished document. That means agreement on a move to a 5050 split of revenue and a happy medium for the make whole provision that both sides can make peace with.

Most of the NHL players understand there is still going to be some level of escrow in the next CBA, but theyre looking to get the best deal possible. That means giving in on some portions of the even revenue split to get the NHL to bend on some of the player contract rights. The players should be willing to accept 6-7 year contract term limits and an elimination of the back-diving contracts, and its difficult to see exactly what they dont like about two-year entry level contracts.

By the same token the NHL should be willing to revert back to the 27 years oldseven years of service guidelines for unrestricted free agency that is understandably important to the players. One area that some players also said was a non-starter: including minor league contracts on the NHL salary cap that would force all AHL players into uniformly cheap deals. Thats an area that doesnt make sense to most NHL teams from a salary cap standpoint, and has rubbed many players the wrong way by squeezing the hard-working, honest players at the AHL level.

Those deals arent going to break the bank either way, and shouldnt be something that the season is lost over.  

Its the kind of compromise that should be happening if the two sides are negotiating, but the trust hasnt been there for a long enough durations of time through 65 days of the lockout. So now the ball is in the NHLPAs court. Theyve vowed all along how willing they were to continue negotiations and to keep talking through their differences, and thats allowed them to enjoy the upper hand in public opinion.

Now the NHLPA has been given a chance to put forth a proposal that could move both sides closer to a deal, and perhaps keep things on course for a Dec. 1 start to a shortened regular season. Indications were that the NHLPA was going to take until Wednesday to put together an offer they would present to NHL officials in New York City, and thats a good sign for everybody.

It would indicate Donald Fehr and the players are earnest in their desire to present something the league will move on.

But it will be an even better sign if both the NHL and NHLPA feel theres more to talk about after reconvening on TuesdayWednesday, and keep grinding toward a deal that should be eminently reachable.