NHLPA's counteroffer expected
TORONTO -- Having finished presenting "the vast bulk" of its proposals in labor talks Wednesday, the NHL is waiting for the NHL Players' Association to respond.
"We've left some issues that we have to get back to, but the overwhelming scope of our proposals are on the table," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after the two sides met for the second consecutive day at the union's headquarters in Toronto.
Bettman said the presentation covered nuts and bolts issues, such as training camp and grievance procedures, and went beyond the initial proposal the NHL made two weeks ago. That's when the NHL proposed a new economic split in revenues, asking the players to take more than a 20 percent cut, according to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.
Bettman continued to refer to talks as "amicable" and characterized negotiations Wednesday as being "a good session."
"Even though the Players' Association hasn't put forth any formal proposals yet, we did put on a comprehensive set of proposals," Bettman said. "The process continues."
The sides are set to meet again Thursday in Toronto, before talks shift to New York next week.
This marks the fifth straight week talks have taken place in a bid to reach a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires Sept. 15.
Fehr said the NHL's presentation has left the players plenty to digest and review. He said the union also is waiting for the league to provide certain background information on several issues.
Fehr has already indicated the NHLPA is planning to present its counteroffer within two weeks.
On a promising note, Fehr said he doesn't expect there to be much of a difference of opinion on much of what the NHL presented Wednesday.
The bigger obstacles are expected to involve how to split revenue -- the players currently receive about a 57 percent share -- and when a player is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. Most players currently have to wait seven seasons before hitting the market.
Bettman declined to speculate on whether a deal could be reached by Sept. 15.
"We're focused on making a deal on a timely basis," Bettman said. "I'm not going to speculate at this point as to what would happen if we are not in a position to make a deal by then. Our goal is to move this process along as quickly as possible."
The NHLPA has already said it's open to playing next season under the current CBA.
The NHL has had two seasons disrupted by labor disputes over the past two decades. A lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. Almost half of the 1994-95 season was wiped out by a labor dispute.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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