The fugliness has returned
The roller-coaster ride that has been these CBA negotiations continues, and
it's becoming painful to watch.
TORONTO -- What a freakin' gongshow. I mean, seriously. After making
some significant progress over the last week, the NHL and NHLPA appear
to be at a standstill. Again.
This entire lockout has been absolutely ridiculous. Pierre LeBrun put
it best in his
column for ESPN last night, this is the
"most embarrassing work stoppage in the history of pro sports."
Yesterday afternoon, I spoke to a high-ranking NHL executive directly
involved in these magical negotiations. He told me the two sides have
agreed on a "significant number of issues," but also indicated that
"not all issues are of equal important."
That's fair. Agreeing on such items as the salary cap and player
contracts weighs a lot more than the Entry-Level System, Group 3 UFA
status and arbitration rights, all of which remain unchanged from the
So far (and for now), the NHL and NHLPA seem to have agreed on such
main points as a 50/50 split of Hockey Related Revenues, a 10-year CBA
(though the NHLPA wants the mutual opt-out to be after seven years
instead of eight), two compliance buyouts per team for next season,
and a 30 per cent variance in player salaries, though as Elliotte
Friedman first pointed out, no year within a player's contract can be
lower than 60 per cent of the highest-paid year of the deal. The NHL
also agreed to restore previous penalties related to "hiding" HRR.
It would appear that the cap and its connection to escrow, player
pensions (which the NHLPA thought they had an agreement on last week)
and contract terms are among the remaining big issues.
And things seemed to be moving in the right direction. Granted, the
NHL continues to stand firm on its $60 million cap for the 2013-14
campaign, while the NHLPA lowered their initial counter-offer of $67
million to $65 million.
But then something happened.
Someone failed to file a Disclaimer of Interest, or give notice to the
Now, I get that as a sign of good faith, if things seemed to be moving
positively, you wouldn't want to potentially mess things up by filing.
But at the end of the day, you have to cover your ass, and the other
side should understand that... even if they don't, tough luck. You
have to do what's in the best interest of yourself and your party.
Donald Fehr was given the power to file the Disclaimer. He didn't, and
now it's been widely reported that the NHL took advantage of that and
talks have shifted negatively ever since the deadline to file passed.
As the NHLPA conducts another vote to file -- according TSN's
Aaron Ward, it'll now require a full membership vote in order to happen --
the Players and the League will be meeting separately with a mediator
today, and no bargaining sessions have been scheduled.
In lieu of this morning's activities, I reconnect with that league
executive... and, like him, I'm left dumbfounded.
"It doesn't look like they have much of an appetite for moving the
process forward," the executive said, referring to the NHLPA.
"I have no idea when or if there will be any bargaining today. You
should ask the Union."
The most interesting part of all of this was what comes next. Asked if
he could categorize discussions at this point, in light of all the
doom and gloom that started spewing out of the now-warm journalists
covering the negotiations in New York City, he couldn't.
"I can't really characterize them because I'm not in their minds."
Now, I'm hoping this is all one big ruse. That they'll come out of
mediation today and find themselves even closer to a deal. But I don't
I've been Mr. Optimistic throughout this whole mess. I was told by team
executives throughout this process that the season was coming back at
three separate points. Once in November. Once in December, and now. I
honestly don't know what to make of it, and frankly, neither do they.
There appears to be zero trust between the owners and the players.
Until a new CBA signed, anything can happen and any point can change.
I'm hoping (not hopeful) something gets ironed out quickly. This looks
like it will be coming down to the wire. And as of now, it can go