Two more days of negotiations between the National Hockey League and its players association this week in Toronto yielded few results, but the league did lists its first set of stipulations in a proposed new collective bargaining agreement.
Among other demands, the NHL wanted to:
- Reduce the players' share of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent
- Permit players to hit unrestricted free agency after 10 years instead of seven
- Limit contracts to five years
- Abolish salary arbitration
- Abolish signing bonuses
- Make entry-level contracts five years instead of three
With no contract limits current and a salary cap that has doubled since the current CBA was enacted in 2005, owners were largely expected to make some strong demands to curb costs. Even so, NHLPA director Donald Fehr said any salary rollbacks on the level of the 24 percent pay cut players took to return to the ice after the lockout-eliminated 2004-05 season won't happen:
"What do I think about salary rollback? I think basically what most people representing employees would think about salary rollbacks. What I’m sure you would think about salary rollbacks if they came to you. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what that is. I certainly assume that the owners would intend to comply with all of the contracts they have signed, and nobody has suggested (anything) to the contrary."
Players might not take a pay cut, but for the sake of their long-term viability they should at least be willing to budge on the terms of contracts. Deals such as Ilya Kovalchuk's 12-year contract with the New Jersey Devils - and even Christian Ehrhoff's with the Buffalo Sabres – that front-load the money make a mockery of the spirit of the current CBA and are a cheap loophole that will end up hamstringing teams and players alike.
Both sides have indicated they want a deal done quickly, but working past the Sept. 15 expiration of the current CBA to ensure a solid plan is a possibility. The season is slated to start Oct. 11.
Meetings continue next week in New York. Meetings are slated to take place weekly through July.
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