Whether you’re at work or staring at your pants angrily at home this afternoon like I am, your Twitter feed blew up with the news that the NHL came up with a new proposal for the NHLPA this morning. Before we get into it and what it could mean and what it might not mean and a bunch of other things, we have to say there are a lot of things we don’t know about it and there could be all sort of snakes and scorpions in the inner-workings of it. So take it easy there, Champ.
Ok, let’s delve into what we do know about it.
The big news is that the NHL offer has a straight 50-50 split starting immediately. No rollback (kind of, we’ll get to that), same definition of HHR, and “some” protection against contracts that are obviously going to have to have some sort of amnesty or buyout so everyone can get under the new cap. There’s no step-ladder down to this. It would also start a full 82-game season on Nov. 2nd. If that can’t be met, things obviously change and this deal is no longer valid. Which makes sense, because everyone’s revenue is going to look different with less games, and though we’re angry now a full slate of games probably means we’ll forgive and the revenues won’t alter that much.
A couple of other details just rolled in. Those are entry-level deals will now be extended to four year, which was the compromise point we all looked at when this whole mess started. Free agency will also extend to the age of 28 or eight years service, down from 10 the owners originally offered but up from the current 27 and 7. This is another aspect that probably won’t hold up talks for very long when they get to them after solving the big question. I for one would like to see the entry-level deals extended, because it’s those second deals that are killing teams. And I bet a fair few veterans in the PA want to see players come into the league and pay their dues a little more before cashing in. So that’s fine.
Ok, let’s see if we can’t cut through the surface and get to what’s really at work here. A day after their PR Firm story broke, the NHL has reset the PR war…whatever that might mean. Everyone — the fans, the players, the owners — knew in their hearts that this would result in a deal that eventually got to a 50-50 split. They’re just speeding up the process. But they’re still doing their best, or at least making it look like they’re doing their best, to preserve a full-season. Which is obviously what fans want.
They’ve also taken the issue that players barked about off of it, and that’s a rollback. But have they? A straight 50-50 split this season means a salary cap of around $57.5 million. Clearly, there are many many teams over that and there has to be some sort of buyout/amnesty system to get teams under the cap (if this is what it looks like the cartwheels Vancouver and Philadelphia are going to have to pull are going to be groin-punching hilarious). Reportedly, there are “protections” in this offer, but we don’t know what that exactly looks like. We’ll have to see.
But it’s still something of a rollback. They’re not getting it from every player, but they are getting it from the select few who will have to be axed to get teams under the cap. The players union isn’t going to like that, but if it’s framed the right way they’re not going to have a choice. Again, it’s going to come down as to what those protections are for players who are obviously going to have to be chucked off their team. But the fact that “rollback” isn’t a word being used here is kind of significant. Sort of.
I think we can safely say there’s going to be huge pressure on the players to make a deal from this and quickly. That’s another genius part of it, the clock on this is awfully small. Because it expires with the possibility of an 82-game season evaporating, there isn’t a lot of time for the PA to digest and counter-offer. But for a side that’s been very concerned with how it’s perceived, and 82-game season and a straight 50-50 split sounds pretty good to fans right now. If they really do care about this PR bullshit, they’ve got very little wiggle room.
What we can say for sure, I think, is that it’s some movement. It does seems like something you can negotiate off of, which is what these talks have been lacking. They at least have the same language to speak now instead of two different ones at the top of their lungs at the same time. But don’t start planning your road trips and get the jerseys out of the closet yet. There are many twists and turns left here and god knows what the fine print might say.