Only 14 of 17 points to resolve NHL lockout seem to be feasible
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A one-day hiatus from formal negotiations did not smooth the way for progress between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association.
The sides met for about an hour Sunday in New York, but even steering clear of the two biggest issues did not produce much, if any, common ground. The quest for a new collective bargaining agreement and an end to the lockout does not seem to be advancing.
The topic of the day was player contract rights, and union executive director Donald Fehr said afterward that he did not "see a path to an agreement" because the league has not budged enough from its original demands.
Fehr said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the union representatives that "we're past the point of give and take."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly countered that the NHLPA gave the league "17 issues on players' contracts last week. We have a deal, or made progress, on 14 of them." Those 14 apparently are not major sticking points, however, and Daly conceded that the sides are in a stalemate on other components.
"I don't know where to go," Daly said.
The sides could meet again as soon as today -- perhaps shifting to Toronto, site of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
After a day away from the table, Sunday marked the fifth negotiating session in six days. There was optimism last week over the fact that the two sides were not only meeting but also exchanging offers, but it appears things have stalled.
The league and union took a break from the two topics that have dominated talks and in large part defined the impasse -- revenue sharing, and a way to honor existing player contracts while reducing their share of league revenue from 57 percent under the CBA that expired Sept. 15 to 50 percent under a new deal.
An indication of which of the contract rights issues are most important to the union might have come in a memo last week from Fehr to the players. He wrote that the NHL was not willing to budge off the idea of an immediate 50-50 split of revenues or off of its player contract proposals that "include -- among other things -- losing a year of salary arbitration eligibility, allowing the team to file for salary arbitration in any year that the player can file, extending [unrestricted free agency] eligibility to age 28 or eight seasons, limiting contracts to five years, and permitting only 5 percent year-to-year variability in player contracts."
Players have said since before the lockout began in mid-September that if they were going to be willing to come down in the percent of revenue they receive, they expect in return concessions from the owners in other areas.
Several Penguins who were among a large gathering of players in New York for NHLPA meetings Sept. 12 and 13 said as much then.
"I remember 2004, it was tough, all the concessions we made there," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said then, referring to a 24 percent salary reduction players accepted after a lockout that erased the 2004-05 season. The league incorporated a salary cap then, in addition to the salary rollbacks, and the players got many of the contract rights that now are back on the table.
"We gained a lot in free agency, arbitration rights," Orpik said in September. "This time around, it kind of seems like it's just all concessions from our side, and we're not really getting anything in return. Usually in most negotiations, it's give and take."
First Published November 12, 2012 12:00 am