When Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman return to the bargaining table today in New York, the heads of the NHLPA and NHL, respectively, will face at least two major unresolved issues:
Max contract lengths: The league is reportedly refusing to budge on a five-year limit with a five percent variance on annual salary. The one exception is if players are re-signing with their current teams, in which case it would be a seven-year max. Clearly the NHL doesn’t want bidding wars for free agents to be determined by which team will offer the longest term. (Granted, there was no bidding war for Rick DiPietro, but his 15-year, $67.5 million contract with the Islanders is an extreme example of how long-term deals can go wrong.)
CBA length: The NHL has proposed a 10-year agreement (with option to opt out after eight years) and tied it to $300 million (up from $211 million) in “make whole” funds. Translation: no 10-year CBA, no $300 million. It’s not clear if the players are vehemently opposed to a lengthy CBA or if it’s more they don’t like the $300 million being dependent on it.
Despite the optimism that has accompanied talks this week, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports “there’s a hugely negative vibe emanating from both sides right now. Keeping this process on rails today will be challenging.”