NHLPA biding time until counter-offer is ready

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NHLPA biding time until counter-offer is ready

Its been two weeks since the NHL unloaded the first CBA proposal onto the NHLPA and the rest of an unsuspecting hockey world, and made the statement that the two sides are indeed very far apart on terms, revenue shares and nearly every major sticking point.
The NHLPA and Executive Director Donald Fehr have pored through the document, asked their questions and come to harmonious agreement on some of the minor points below the surface.
But make no mistake about it: the biggest point of contention will be the percentage split of hockey-related revenue and where the players will ultimately go from their current 57 percent haul of revenue.
Its expected the league wants to eventually land at a 5050 split with the players that will ultimately lower the salary cap ceiling from the expected 70 million limit for each team next season. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in the balance of which side wins the negotiating battle, and its that large pile of cash that will make the CBA talks painful before its over.
But through it all, the NHLPA has acted coolly and rationally where they might have once flown off the handle in a rage.
"They have asked for a reduction in the players' share," said Fehr to reporters. We indicated that here is some further information that we've requested.
Instead the NHLPA is sitting, waiting and taking measure of which way the wind is blowing before releasing its own counter-proposal. One would expect that counter-move is coming sooner rather than later, and that its going to include creative ideas about revenue sharing.
After all, Fehr is the same union head that oversaw the change to a soft salary cap in Major League Baseball that essentially boils down to a luxury tax with heavy revenue sharing controls. The New York Yankees spend like drunken sailors and poverty-stricken teams like the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates end up the beneficiaries of the extra funds.
Fehr and the NHLPA have designs on something similar in the NHL where teams like the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs have seemingly endless reserves of cash they could call upon when needed. That would make things more manageable for teams like the New Jersey Devils and Phoenix Coyotes that are facing economic difficulties. That system could help the struggling small market franchises that are driving the owners to a we are losing money argument despite a record 3.3 billion in revenues last season.
But it would also be a large departure for teams like New York, Toronto, Chicago and Boston that dont want to bankroll the rest of the league based on their own successful business models. Its not the business that any owners signed up for when they joined the NHL, but it might just be the best solution to get everybody what theyre seeking.
One thing that proposal will do: get the small market and big market NHL owners fighting among each other given the very different situations theyre each facing.
Its the kind of divide-and-conquer philosophy Gary Bettman has long used to break the backs of the players union during CBA negotiations, and now it would appear that Fehr is working that same side of the street.
The NHLPA has been thoughtful, diligent, understanding and deliberate in each move theyve made thus far this summer, but a big move is coming from them sooner or later. The contents of their upcoming counter-proposal will tell a great many things: how far apart the owners and players truly seem to be right now, what is most important to the players and just how many games hockey fans can expect to miss when the NHL gets started late this season.
Its trending toward a short-ish work stoppage being a definite rather than a simple possibility at this point.
But any work stoppage be it ending the day after Thanksgiving or on New Years Day along with the Winter Classic -- will ultimately be decided by the men armed in briefcases that hold hockeys fate in their very complex business models.

Bruins still in waiting mode on Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork

Bruins still in waiting mode on Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork

BRIGHTON, Mass – While the NHL debut for Charlie McAvoy is a matter of “when” rather than “if” at this point after agreeing to an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO) with the Boston Bruins, the jury is still out on Boston University center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and University of Notre Dame winger Anders Bjork become pros. 

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney says that Forsbacka-Karlsson has yet to make a “final decision” on his status for next season after BU’s elimination from the NCAA hockey tournament, and Bjork is readying for the Frozen Four this weekend along with the rest of his Fighting Irish teammates. The 20-year-old Forsbacka-Karlsson just wrapped up his sophomore season with the Terriers and posted 14 goals and 33 points in 38 games with a plus-11 rating, and has not given the Bruins any firm word on his plans for the immediate future. 

The urgency perhaps isn’t there for the Bruins to lock things up with Forsbacka-Karlsson right this second, because he wouldn’t be a factor for this year’s NHL team. 

Meanwhile the Bruins can’t do anything with the 20-year-old Bjork until at least the end of next weekend, but have been mightily impressed with a player that’s posted 21 goals and 52 points in 38 games for Notre Dame this season. Bjork had three assists in the game that propelled Notre Dame into the Frozen Four, and there would be a great deal of urgency for the Bruins to lock up a talented forward that might be able to help them right now. 

“I’ve been able to see [Bjork] a few times including the regional [in New Hampshire] last weekend, and he was outstanding. He played every other shift, he set up goals in the game and he’s had a really nice progression as a college player this season,” said Sweeney of the explosive Notre Dame junior, who was far and away the best player at B's development camp last summer. “They’ve done a fabulous job with their team, and hopefully they get to the Finals on Saturday against Harvard, and we get the best of both worlds seeing how our prospects play in the final game. He’s had a tremendous college career to this point, and we’re excited about his development.”

McAvoy is the front-burner issue for the Bruins at this point, but it would surprise exactly nobody if both Forsbacka-Karlsson and Bjork join him in Providence in the next couple of weeks as they wrap up their AHL season.