Well that didn’t take long now did it? All it took was one leaked initial proposal from the owners to the NHLPA for every doom and gloomer to take the first volley as a guarantee that the season will start three months late. Now I will never claim to have mastered the art of negotiating. In fact, I probably don’t know any more about it than most people, myself included, know how supply and demand work in economics. But one thing I do know is that you don’t make your best offer first. I would even be willing to bet that the league knows this offer isn’t it’s most serious take it or leave it offer.
The five big points leaked about the initial proposal were:
1. Reduce players’ hockey-related revenues to 46% from 57 %.
2. 10 seasons in the NHL before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.
3. Contracts limited to 5 years.
4. No more salary arbitration.
5. Entry-level contract are 5 years long instead of 3.
Immediate reactions to these were met with something rather close to passing gas in church. While all I see in these points is just a starting point. Now it does remain to be seen what the owners are willing to do in terms of wiggle room, if they intend to dig their heels into the ground, this could get quickly to the point where pessimism for the next season to get a lot more understandable. But for right now, becoming panic stricken is just a bit too soon.
An initial offer of reducing the players’ cut of the HHR from 57 to 46% leads me to think it’s a way to see just how close the league can get the players to agree to something more along the lines of 50-52%. 46% of HHR would make for a $58 million cap for the upcoming season. Hell 52% of HHR going to the players would be a major win for Bettman and the Owners, IMO.
I’m a little unsure of limiting contract lengths to 5 years for right now. While, the elimination of signing bonuses and cap hits/salaries must be even-steven throughout the duration of the contract I like personally. Front loaded contracts provides a substantial advantage to larger market teams so eliminating this would put the teams on a more level playing field in a finances sense. Perhaps the agreement of such would allow the league lessen their stance on a 5 year contract length limit, or even forego a length limit completely in return.
10 seasons in the NHL before UFA status is quite high, an 18 year old that makes the league right out of the draft would be 28 before he becomes a UFA…and just how many begin their careers right out of the gate?
One aspect of ELCs being 5 years in length max is how will this affect European prospects? How will a young Russian or Swede consider his options when faced with committing to 5 years to North America with an entry level salary when they can easily make more in the SEL or KHL?
Oddly enough the salary arbitration aspect is probably one that would irritate the players the most. No more salary arbitration would greatly reduce the chance at RFAs getting a favorable deal. This point will be the interesting one to see how the players fight for it or if they are willing to give this up and fight harder on another aspect. Perhaps in exchange for no more arbitration, teams would no longer get compensation for an unmatched offer sheet is a thought.
Lest we forget, Gary Bettman works for the owners, not the players. If Don Fehr made the first offer, his would be blatantly skewed towards the players, that is compulsory. Revenues might be skyrocketing but the economic landscape for the league as a whole still can use work. The difficulty of finding viable owners and some franchises having difficulty staying afloat underscores the need for more change.
If the NHL agrees to participate in the Sochi Olympics, removal of player escrows, perhaps an increase in minimum salary (or at least a higher veterans minimum salary) then the NHL is going to get something back in return.
So to all you Chicken Little’s out there, heed the advice of one Carey Price “Relax, just chill out.”