Its eminently fair to ask what exactly the NHL and NHLPA are trying to prove at this point.
Both sides met for an hour on Sunday to discuss player contract rights and smacked head-long into a wall after a long week of discussions. Both NHLPA Exec Director Donald Fehr and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly admitted the two sides were gaining ground on the big issue of splitting Hockey Related Revenue (HRR), but said the league isnt going to budge on their player rights demands.
That led Fehr to pessimistically tell reporters that he doesnt see a path to an agreement given the tenor of negotiations.
Those are the same player contract rights (eight years of service or 28 years old until unrestricted free agency, reduction in arbitration rights, five year contract term limits, considerable change to the entry-level deals and limiting year-to-year salary variance to five percent) that the NHL has whispered to members of the media that they would have flexibility on all along.
Instead the NHL appears willing to cancel more games and further cannibalize their record-breaking business so they can limit players to five-year deals. This is the same group of NHL owners that were giving thumbs up on signing players like Tyler Seguin to six-year contracts immediately prior to the Sept. 15 lockout.
Take a bow for your stunning new level of hypocrisy, Jeremy Jacobs. Now thats really saying something.
The league-approved media messengers have said all along that the only player contract demand that was non-negotiable was the five percent variance on player contracts to limit the back-diving deals designed to circumvent the salary cap. But thats not how its played out in face-to-face negotiations as those around the NHL started to get their hopes up.
Daly reiterated after Sundays face-to-face meeting that the NHL owners werent willing to budge on the seemingly minor player contract rights, and were willing to go to the wall on it.
These issues are very, very important to the clubs, said Daly to NHL.com. If we were hearing from the clubs, Geez, dont let these player contracting issues get in the way of a deal. Lets get a deal done and get the players back on the ice, then thats what we would be saying at the bargaining table, but thats not what were hearing from our clubs.
So there you have it.
The NHL owners have told Gary Bettman and Daly to draw the line in the sand on player contracts, and theres no budging them despite the window beginning to slam shut on a Dec. 1 start to the regular season. The players are still wondering whats in it for them as theyre taking a drastic pay reduction from the last CBA, and potentially facing much more limited options in controlling the fate of their individual careers.
Players have two interests here, said Fehr. Interest No. 1 is how big the share is and thats not agreed upon yet either, but the parties have at least moved on that. The second one is how does an individual player negotiate his piece of the pie? The answer is players will have vastly fewer rights, vastly less leverage for vastly longer portion of their career under the NHL proposal.
The NHL and NHLPA need to get an agreement done this upcoming week if they hope to have training camp begin after Thanksgiving for a Dec. 1 start season opener. That means there needs to be give and take on both sides. Otherwise the earliest start to the NHL season well be looking at his Jan. 1 with a date for the obliteration of the 2012-13 season slowly crawling onto the horizon.
Perhaps this is just one final showdown between the league and the players before they eventually lock down a deal.
The two sides arent there yet, of course, as they hit this most recent stalemate in negotiations. But total regular season oblivion could come up much quicker than people realize if somebody doesnt learn the meaning of the CBA vocabulary word compromise, and learn it very quickly.