Commentary

No surprises in NHL's first offer

Updated: July 15, 2012, 6:07 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

Yes, the National Hockey League delivered its first proposal on a new collective bargaining agreement to its players Friday, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com Saturday morning.

And, once the players are done laughing over their morning coffees while poring over the brief document that represented the league's proposal on a new deal, the two sides will sit down for more talks later this week at the league's offices in New York and maybe get down to the actual business of hammering out an agreement.

Maybe not.

But should anyone be up in arms over the league's outline of a proposal that was long on demands but short on details?

The simple answer is no.

Should anyone be surprised that the league asked for the players to take 46 percent of hockey-related revenues in a new agreement, down from their current share of 57 percent?

No.

Or that the league's proposal suggested players would have to wait 10 seasons before qualifying for free agency, up from the current seven?

No.

[+] EnlargeGary Bettman
Len Redkoles/Getty ImagesDon't expect the first proposal by Gary Bettman and the owners to warm the hearts of the NHLPA.

Or that the league wants to extend entry-level contracts in some form from the current three years to five years?

No.

Or that contracts carry a term no greater than five years and that all cap hits be the same for the life of the contract?

No.

None of this should come as any surprise to anyone familiar with how these things play out, and multiple sources told ESPN.com Saturday that this type of proposal was entirely expected, even if the final agreement, whenever that might be reached, will likely bear little resemblance to this initial volley.

The league, coming off a season of record revenues that topped $3 billion, might as well have slid this proposal into Santa's sack as it represents an owners' wish list of ways the players can help save the league's teams from spending themselves into financial crises.

What did anyone expect? It's early July. The current collective bargaining agreement doesn't end until Sept. 15.

If the two sides can agree on the agenda and the logistics for further meetings, something that is expected to be discussed early next week, they are then expected to discuss the proposal and the league's justification for its demands at meetings Wednesday and Thursday in New York.

But there's precious little to compel the league to start anywhere but where it did by asking for the moon. Having imposed a salary cap on the players eight years ago, the league is determined to further restrict players' access to league revenues regardless of the league's rising revenues and rosy outlook for future revenue growth. This proposal represents a blue-skying of such goals.

But any suggestion that the players are either offended or surprised by such a proposal is specious.

Would it be a great story for the league and its players to tell if they hammer out a new deal long before camps or games are canceled? Could there be a better springboard to training camp and the 2012-13 season than by charting a course to labor peace that other higher profile sports could not find?

Sure. But we're nowhere near that now.