The NHL proposed a new collective bargaining agreement Tuesday that includes a 50-50 split of revenues and, on the surface, appears to be a step forward in negotiations.
Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Toronto that this latest offer doesn’t include any salary rollbacks and is contingent on playing a compressed 82-game season that would begin on Nov. 2.
“It was done in the spirit of getting a deal done,” said Bettman, who explained teams would play an extra game every fifth week in a compressed schedule.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the offer, which is the first presented by either side since Sept. 12, was for “at least” six years but declined to offer an assessment on the proposal before taking time to fully examine it. The players’ association is scheduled to have a conference call at 5 p.m. with its executive board and negotiating committee to discuss the NHL’s latest offer.
“We haven’t been able to run any numbers yet, much less formulate a response,” Fehr said.
Details of the proposal continue to emerge, including how the league intends to lower the players’ share of revenues from 57 percent to 50 percent in the first year without a rollback.
Bettman declined to discuss specifics of the plan or what role the escrow system would play in this new offer, but multiple reports indicate that the league included a provision that would protect the value of existing contracts.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the NHL would calculate the amount of salary lost to reach the 50-50 split and would pay it back to the players over the course of their contract. The NHLPA has bristled at any suggestion of immediate salary cuts but such a provision, depending on the fine print, could start to bridge the gap.
The offer also included the following terms on key contract issues, as reported by Sportsnet’s John Shannon: Eligibility for unrestricted free agency would increase to 28 years old or eight years of service, non-entry level contracts would be capped at five years,
entry-level deals would remain three-years in length and arbitration would still exist. Based on later updates, entry level deals would be two-years in length under the NHL’s latest proposal.
How the NHLPA will ultimately respond to this proposal is uncertain, but the union is on the clock. The NHL already canceled regular season games through Oct. 24 and more are expected later this week if there is no progress in negotiations. So in order to meet the league’s proposed Nov. 2 start date, with a one-week training camp, a deal would need to be struck quickly.
“We very much want to preserve a full 82-game season, and in that light, we made a proposal, an offer, really, that is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs, and this offer that we made obviously was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season,” Bettman said. “We have about nine or 10 days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.”