The NHL’s first offer in its negotiations with the NHLPA was seen by many as a shot across the union’s bow. And with the league reportedly asking for a considerably larger split in hockey-related revenue from the players, the elimination of signing bonuses, as well as a salary rollback, predictions of a work stoppage are growing in number.
In fact, one source with knowledge of the players’ side of the negotiation is predicting not just a work stoppage, but an entire lost season.
“Last time around, the NHL made its salary cap proposal and barely moved off it,” the source, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told PHT. “This is not an initial proposal. The league is shutting down and it’s ‘come back when you’re ready to accept.’
“This is exactly what happened last time. You heard it here first, we will not play next year.”
Granted, that’s just one opinion.
For most, it remains hard to imagine another lost season after the entire 2004-05 schedule was wiped out due to a lockout. Could the league and union really let it happen again?
It’s also still very early in the negotiations. The current collective bargaining agreement doesn’t expire until Sept. 15, and we’re only in July.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly declined to comment on the above.
All the talk of late concerning the NHL owners’ initial CBA proposal to the Players’ Union has been making people nervous that we’ll see yet another labor stoppage. Larry Brooks of the New York Post includes an added bit of information this morning that won’t likely help make anyone feel better.
Brooks shares in his Sunday column that the owners’ proposal would include a roll back of the salary cap to a level not seen since 2007-08. Brooks doesn’t pull any punches with his take on it.
The NHL’s Declaration of War presented to the Players’ Association in the guise of a first proposal on Friday would roll back the salary cap to approximately $52.5 million for 2012-13. The drop of nearly $10 million from last season would represent the lowest number since 2007-08, sources with knowledge of the league’s scheme have told Slap Shots.
With a salary cap roll back of that amount, 19 teams would have to slash salary to get under the the proposed cap if that wound up being the case. Of course, the owners’ first proposal is just that — a first proposal.
NHLPA head Donald Fehr said recently he didn’t think there would be a salary roll back in the next CBA, but this report indicates the owners want to correct the “mistakes” they made with the previous agreement.
With just 92 days left until the current NHL CBA expires, many are already fretting about the possibility of a work stoppage.
Peter Chiarelli is not one of those people.
The Bruins GM spoke with CSNNE.com today and seemed optimistic that negotiations would allow for the 2012-13 season to start on time.
“Maybe I’m an eternal optimist on this stuff, but I think there will be no time missed,” said Chiarelli. “I hope we’ve learned from our last go-round. We always try to improve it, but I think the [NHL] product is pretty good.”
Unlike most, Chiarelli sees the presence of NHLPA head honcho Donal Fehr as a good thing. While many look back at Fehr’s history with dread — most notably his time with Major League Baseball players association — Chiarelli sees his experience as a positive factor.
“I don’t know Fehr aside from what I’ve seen of him in the past, but I think he’s a deal-maker,” said Chiarelli. “I know he does his job. I hope the two sides get together soon, but I’m an optimist.”
The salary cap will probably increase this summer, but that might change when the NHL and NHLPA agree on a new CBA. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants GMs to take a “business as usual” approach until the league has a new CBA, but will they?
This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
It’s worth noting that several teams have already locked up some of their unrestricted free agents to big extensions over the past couple of months. Ales Hemsky, Tuomo Ruutu, and Mikhail Grabovski have all signed extensions that will reportedly come with annual cap hits in the $4.75 million to $5.5 million range, and those three players aren’t putting up star caliber numbers this season. So it’s still safe to say that GMs will spend this summer, but they might practice a little more restraint than they would have under normal circumstances.
Wouldn’t it be nice for the Montreal Canadiens if they didn’t have to deal with Scott Gomez’s $7,357,143 annual cap hit? Well, if a recent report citing league sources is true, they might not have to for much longer. According to Bruce Garrioch’s sources, GMs are hoping that the new CBA will include an amnesty clause, which will would allow them to buyout a single contract each without it counting against the cap. A league source specified that this “would be a one-time buyout only,” so this wouldn’t provide NHL squads with the freedom to ink a player to a big contract one summer and then shed themselves of it without a cap punishment before Year Two of the deal.
Of course, it’s worth emphasizing that all of this is still purely theoretical. Even if the NHL’s GMs want this clause, and it’s not hard to believe that they would, it doesn’t mean that it will be included in the final draft of the next CBA. Still, we bet that fans of almost every team can name a player whose contract they’d like to see their team shed.