Friday, December 28, 2012
NHL presents 'comprehensive' offer
By Pierre LeBrun
The NHL has made a new proposal to the NHL Players' Association with time ticking toward a canceled season, the league has confirmed.
In a statement released Friday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly called the offer a "comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA," saying it was delivered to the union late Thursday afternoon.
"We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time," Daly said in the statement. "We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."
A player who requested anonymity told ESPN.com earlier Friday the offer advanced what was on the table for term limits for player contracts, salary variance and buyouts.
The league's insistence on a five-year limit has been a major sticking point with players, who countered Dec. 6 with a willingness to limit deals to eight years.
The two sides did not meet Friday, the NHLPA needing time to review the lengthy and detailed offer from the league. The NHL and NHLPA will have a conference call on Saturday, a source said, with the NHL answering questions from the union regarding the offer, after which they hope to schedule an in-person meeting as early as Sunday in New York.
The NHLPA had scheduled a 3 p.m. ET players internal conference call Friday to discuss the offer and determine the next step, multiple sources said. Several players were not yet aware of the proposal when the news was reported Friday morning.
One source said it could take the entire weekend for the union to sift through the details of the latest offer -- approximately 300 pages in length -- and formulate an appropriate response.
Details of the new offer, as obtained through an NHL team source by ESPN.com, include:
• Term limit on player contracts moves to six years from the five years NHL asked in previous offers (seven years if you're re-signing your own player).
• Year-to-year salary variance moves from 5 percent (NHL's previous offers) to 10 percent.
• Each team will be allowed one compliance buyout before the 2013-14 season that will not count against the salary cap but will count against the players' share.
• The Make-Whole provision stays at $300 million.
The proposed collective bargaining agreement would remain a 10-year deal (through the 2021-22 season) with a mutual opt-out option after eight years. The rules for the entry-level system, salary arbitration and Group 3 unrestricted free agency also remain unchanged.
Sources told ESPN.com that the league's offer also shared key dates that could be observed to get a season under way: an agreement no later than Jan. 11, the opening of training camps on Jan. 12, and the beginning of the regular season on Jan. 19.
The season needs to start by Jan. 19 in order to accommodate a 48-game regular season, which would see the playoffs end in late June. Of course, should a deal be concluded before Jan. 11, the league could add more games to the schedule, as well.
One area believed to be a concern among the players will be the proposed $60 million salary cap, beginning in 2013-14 (clubs will have a $70.2 million upper limit in 2012-13). Sources indicated that players are wary of the implications the cap would have on escrow amounts.
The proposal also includes procedures and protocols for player discipline (allowing players the right to appeal to a neutral third-party arbitrator), a joint NHL/NHLPA Health and Safety Committee (with equal representation for both parties), an expansion of player drug testing.
Other elements that would be new to the NHL: The creation of an "interview period" for unrestricted free agents, like the NBA, and the implementation of a weighted draft lottery expanded to all non-playoff teams.
Daly, reached by ESPN.com, would not confirm the reported details of the league's latest offer.
The two sides last met Dec. 13, when mediators failed to produce any progress.
Since then, the NHL has canceled games through Jan. 14. In total, 50.8 percent of the regular-season schedule has been scrapped.
During a news conference in New York on Dec. 6 -- the last time the two sides swapped proposals -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested that anything less than a 48-game season would not be acceptable. Given that the league has said it is willing to push a season into late June, a 48-game season likely would have to begin around the third week of January, which means a deal would need to be struck by mid-January at the very latest.
Once a deal is reached, teams will need at least a week for training camp before the season begins.
In the meantime, the NHLPA's executive board has until Wednesday to decide whether to file a notice of disclaimer of interest -- dissolving the union -- after players last week voted overwhelmingly to give the executive board the right to do so.
That may not be an option they explore given Friday's latest offer, however.
Multiple players have told ESPN.com that their preference would be to quickly negotiate a new deal rather than file the disclaimer. However, the union may employ the move as a last resort if no traction is gained in the near future.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang was used in this report.