The NHL's proposed a new CBA to the NHLPA, and talks are scheduled regarding it today. It's generally been accepted, thanks to Donald Fehr's decidedly unimpressed reaction to the proposal (more on that later), that the mild optimism of fans who felt "oh, this isn't too bad!" was misplaced, and no, the season still won't start on time.
Blues captain David Backes is more of a "glass is half full" kind of guy, apparently. He viewed the new CBA proposal as a positive start, telling radio host Josh Rimer:
"I thought it was a gesture in the right direction. That they're willing to finally take these negotiations seriously," said Backes.
"I think the NHL's finally off their substantially one-sided proposal. We're speaking in real terms and hopefully we can work it out."
While optimistic, Backes is still a realist, saying later in the broadcast:
"Right now, it's anyone's guess. Beginning today, I think it was in the back of my mind that we're either going to make a lot of progress this week and get something done, or we're headed down a road that no one wants to go down, and that's a big cancellation of games and perhaps really bunkering each side in and potentially losing a full season," said Backes.
You can be an optimist and a pragmatist at the same time, right? Maybe?
Anyway, what exactly is in the new CBA that was proposed Tuesday, you might be asking yourself. There are several interesting sections, including:
- The players share will be 50%, down from 57%
- The top of the cap will be $59.9 million, down from over $70 million under the new CBA. The teams will have a one-year grace period to get under that new cap
- If a player signed to one of those absurdly long, front loaded deals is traded, the new team is responsible for all aspects of that player's contract, unless the player retires or quits before the end of it. Then, the responsibility shifts back to the old team (nice deterrent!)
- Entry level deals will be two years long instead of three, allowing younger stars a payday sooner
- UFA eligibility begins at age 28 or if they have 8 seasons under their belt
- The longest a contract can last is five years
- No more re-entry waivers
- The top ten clubs will create the revenue sharing pool, and the other 20 will be able to draw from it, including teams in large media markets
- The commish no longer reviews discipline reviews; it will be an independent arbitrator
- No rollback in current contracts, but the players will be getting paid subject to escrow
A "make whole" provision that will pay players compensation that's based on the full value of the players' share per his contract for whatever CBA that contract was signed under. These payments will be accrued and paid by the NHL with money from the players' share and benefits. This provision lasts until 2013-2014.
It's this last aspect that Donald Fehr and the players seem to have a problem with. TSN's Bob McKenzie has Fehr's complete letter in rebuttal to the proposal, and it's not confidence inducing. This particular gripe stands out:
"The proposal includes a "Make Whole" provision, to compensate players for the anticipated reduction in absolute dollars from last year (2011-12), to this year and next year. However, it would work like this. The Players Share in subsequent years would be reduced so that this "Make Whole" payment would be made. It is players paying players, not owners paying players. That is, players are "made whole" for reduced salaries in one year by reducing their salaries in later years."
That does seem to show that Fehr's focused on that particular part possibly more than the concessions that the league put forward. The concessions, as well as the new deterrents to long term cap circumventing contracts like Ilya Kovalchuk's and Chris Pronger's, seem to be pretty decent on the owners' side.
Those things could be done specifically thanks to the focus group kerfluffle that's recently come out. It could all possibly be spin and PR -- isn't what all of this is from both sides, though? Both sides are working towards an agreement, but also both sides need to maintain a positive opinion from the general hockey-going public. Does this necessarily help the NHL or NHLPA? Who knows. Is it still a large step in the right direction? David Backes seems to think so, and for a brief, fleeting moment, so did a lot of fans.