A Labor Day with no labor agreement

On Friday, many in the hockey world eagerly awaited a full blown counter from the NHLPA on the offer the NHL presented to them on Tuesday but it didn't happen and negotiations appear to have stalled. So now what? A poll and my feelings after the jump...

On Friday, many in the hockey world eagerly awaited a full blown counter from the NHLPA on the offer the NHL presented to them on Tuesday. The offer, while still off the mark, appeared to be a small step in the right direction but instead of moving negotiations forward with a counter, the union instead presented alternatives to the fourth year of their original proposal which is highly unlikely to be the framework for a new deal in my opinion.

With the calendar now reading September it is ominously quiet out there. Sure, there were the signings of Kyle Turris and Jordan Eberle this week as both players wisely re-upped before a new CBA possibly changes the parameters of NHL contracts, something Dmitry Kulikov might want to take into consideration but there should be more, a lot more. As fans we should be talking and reading about rookie camps and tournaments, upcoming roster spot battles in training camp, exhibition games, how many goals can Jonathan Huberdeau score or will the Panthers be able to defend their Southeast Division crown. You know, all the usual preseason chatter. Unfortunately, as the clock counts down to September 15th it becomes harder and harder to do that.

So where do we go from here? With no new meetings scheduled it appears we are heading for another work stoppage. It’s really sad that we find ourselves twelve days from that outcome because it seems like there is a lot of room for compromise as far as getting a deal done goes. The players have to realize that the 57% of revenue they are currently pulling down is simply too high of a number. If NFL and NBA players don’t make that much then neither should their NHL brethern. On the other hand, the NHL needs to realize you can’t crow about raking in record revenue and then try to beat the players back to their 2004-5 salary levels.

Both sides must truly come together to get a deal done if the NHL wants to keep operating as a 30 team league and if the players want the job security and career longevity such a league brings. The players need to take a cut down to 50%-52% of HRR while the NHL needs to leave the definition of HRR alone and expand revenue sharing. With that done I am sure the NHLPA would yield a little bit on some of the league’s other requests. I don’t think they would ever go for limiting contracts to five years put bumping up ELC’s to four years or UFA to eight seasons doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Also, I think it is important that some sort of drag be put on the salary cap floor to help the league’s struggling teams. The teams that can afford to
spend will continue to do so no matter what the CBA looks like but I think the rapid rise of the floor over the last couple of seasons is what’s causing serious concern on the side of ownership. Maybe it’s as simple as increasing the spread between the cap floor and ceiling which are currently too close together or letting the ceiling go up each season while the floor only moves every two seasons, I don't know but I'm sure a solution exists that isn't too complicated.

With teams having already assembled their rosters off a temporary "summer" cap this offseason I think it would be a huge gesture of goodwill on the league’s part to let this season be played out under those financial terms once an agreement is reached with the new CBA going into effect for the 2013-14 season. That would give GMs a regular season and offseason to make moves in preparation for the terms of a new deal and save the players from bearing the brunt of teams getting under the salary cap by having large chunks of their salaries placed in escrow. This would also give us fans another season of labor peace.

Obviously, what happens in the next week or so will go a long way towards deciding whether the season will start on time or if we will have a season anytime soon. It’s high time for both sides to finally do what they always say needs to happen in these negotiations, actually become partners in the game. Come up with a system that works now and will only require minor tweaking in the future instead of putting yourselves and us, the fans, through this every six or seven years. It's not good for anyone involved. For hockey fans, a Labor Day without a labor agreement is feeling kind of like a year without a Santa Claus.

The biggest key to getting a new deal done is?

lowering players salaries7
expanded revenue sharing15
leaving the definition of Hockey Related Revenue alone6