NHL tenders new offer to NHLPA

The NHL tendered a new offer to the NHLPA yesterday¬—one that could end up being a make-or-break offer that determines if the NHL has a season this year.

After talks broke down in dramatic fashion several weeks ago, the owners supposedly removed all existing offers from the table, including the $300 million “Make Whole” provision that they had consented to. Since then, the two sides haven’t had much contact, instead focusing their efforts on courtroom drama as the union makes moves toward decertification and the NHL strategically looks to preemptively block that move.

Despite the theatrics on both sides, the owners have made additional concessions toward middle-ground in an attempt to save the season.

Their latest offer still includes the important $300 million “Make Whole” provision and has a 50-50 Revenue Split between Clubs and Players with current HRR accounting.

The two biggest sticking points for the players previously were the length of the new CBA and the imposed contract term limits. The new proposal has a 10-year length with a mutual opt-out option after eight years. The players may not like this option, but they could be willing to settle since the owners moved slightly on the contract term limits.

Where the previous deal set the limit at five years with a year-to-year contract variance of 5 percent, the new deal allows for a six-year contract limit (seven years of the player re-signs with his current club) and allows for as much as a 10 percent variance in value of the first year of a multi-year contract.

In addition, the new deal would see rules for the entry level system, salary arbitration and Group 3 unrestricted free agents stay the same, has no contractual “roll backs” of player salaries, and would provide an effective upper limit salary cap of $70.2 million in 2012-13 with teams having to come into compliance with a $60 million upper limit for the start of the 2013-14 season.

You can see a full outline of the highlights of the new offer here.

The two sides will hold a conference call today at 11 a.m. ET to allow the players to ask questions and gain clarification on some of the topics offered in the proposal.

The owners have made significant concessions in the last two proposals in an attempt to reach an agreement and get the season underway. However, the two major sticking points that the players weren’t sold on from the last proposal still exist—the longer length of the CBA and term limits on player contracts. Although the owners made revisions this time around to allow longer contract lengths and a greater variance in year-to-year salaries. Still, this is an issue that only affects some 50 or so players in the NHL.

If the players intend to play an NHL season this year, this proposal very well could and should be the foundation from which they reach that agreement. While the players will likely not settle on the proposal as-is, the owners won’t be very happy if the NHLPA comes back with significant revisions to some of the major issues, such as the CBA length and the contract term limits.

Major alterations in key areas could result in the owners taking all of their current offers off the table (again) and focusing their efforts on what’s happening in the courts.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that he does not want to play less than 48 games—the same number the league played in a lockout-shortened season in 1994-95. With games already cancelled through Jan. 14, there is a good chance that when Jan. 14 rolls around the league could cancel the season altogether instead of cancelling another block of games.

The 2004-05 NHL season was officially cancelled on February 16, 2005.

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