Time, 'dirty tricks' pose issues in NHL lockout negotiations

Time, 'dirty tricks' pose issues in NHL lockout negotiations
January 4, 2013, 11:14 pm
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The CBA process in the NHL has been rife with roadblocks and ruts, and the last couple of days have fit squarely in that category.

The NHL and NHLPA spent Friday afternoon meeting separately with a federal mediator at different locations in New York City, and there has been no word of an actual face-to-face negotiating session as the day of business is coming to a close. Federal mediator Scott Beckenbaugh has been moving back-and-forth between locations while looking to patch things up between the two groups after a rocky previous 24 hours.

Some quarters of the NHLPA are upset feeling that the NHL attempted a fine print stunt against the players by reverting back to a previous definition of HRR (Hockey Related Revenue) in the latest offer both sides are working from. In essence both sides had agreed on stiff penalties for NHL clubs if they were found guilty of attempting to hide revenue away from their books.

In the version that rankled players, it was worded within the CBA draft that any attempts to hide revenue would be punished only at the discretion of the commissioner. Its pretty easy to see why the NHLPA had an issue with that kind of stunt, though it should be noted the NHL claimed it was an honest mistake in drafting a nearly 300-page proposal.

Some players like Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips felt like it was the NHL trying to pull the wool over their eyes and dirty tricks while other players told CSNNE.com it was simply businessmen doing what they do.

One of the real problems is the timing as any potholes in the process put into danger the aim to have a completed agreement by the end of next week. That would in turn put into jeopardy the efforts by the NHL to put a 48-game shortened regular season into place that would begin by Jan. 19, and cause both the owners and players to walk down a road theyd rather not.

The NHL and NHLPA still must agree on:

An acceptable cap number for the second year of any new CBA with the players hoping for 65 million and the NHL standing firm at 60 million. This is an important subject given that a lowered salary cap number could do serious damage to next years free agent class while a higher number means the escrow on players salaries could go through the roof.

A pension plan that both sides can agree on given that its a difficult process that requires outset personnel to settle it between the NHL and NHLPA.

An acceptable term for the entire CBA with the NHL hoping for 10 and the players looking for something closer to eight years. It sounds like there might be traction on an eight-year CBA, but much like everything else that appears to be fluid at this point.

A salary variance for year-to-year of player contracts: the NHL has reportedly upped their offer to 30 percent limits with no year 60 percent higher than the lowest paid season in an effort to wipe out back-diving contracts. Thats something the players can probably live with in the next CBA.

Term limits for individual player contracts as the NHL continues to offer six years (with seven if a player is re-signing with his own team) and the players are pushing for seven year limits across the board.

So now fear, loathing and distrust have entered back into the equation at a late point in negotiations as Gary Bettman is reportedly threatening to cancel the season late next week if the two sides arent close to a deal. Theres a chance the NHL and NHLPA could finally sit down and talk at some point on Friday night, but theres just as good a chance that the newest silent stalemate continues.