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NHL Players Association readies counter offer

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The NHLPA is expected to forward a 200-page counter offer to the NHL sometime today as hockey fans keep an eye on the proceedings and hope a new season is not far off.

The league has offered a 10-year CBA with a new hockey related revenue split of 50-50 and a $300 million make whole package.

The NHL wants a six-year maximum on contract lengths with a 10 per cent year-to-year variance.

The league forwarded a 300-page offer to the players last Thursday and there are numerous deal issues but the sticking points that players were talking about on Sunday centred around three major issues.

The league wants a salary cap of $60 million for the 2013-14 season with no cap on escrow. The players want a cap of $67.5 million and a limit on escrow.

The players also want a shorter deal or at least an option for an out at seven years. Contract term lengths are another issue for the players. They want longer terms of seven or eight years.

The NHL has asked the union to make a comprehensive counter-offer and not just to cherry pick a few items for discussion.

How the counter-offer is structured and what is in it will provide a road map for the next two weeks.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated the season must start by January 19th in order to complete a 48-game schedule, the smallest he is willing to allow. Training camps would need to begin on or around January 12th for that scenario. So if a deal isn’t done prior to the 12th, the season could very well be lost.

If today’s counter is close to what the league has proposed, there is potential for a quick resolution leading to a 52-game schedule to begin on January 12th.

Those four extra games could represent between $75 million and $100 million in player salary.

In the case of the counter-offer leaving a large gap between the two sides, bargaining will need to be done and time will elapse.

Bettman is in a tough spot. He wants a season but has some owners who believe he’s already given too much. Union boss Don Fehr has shown little regard for the league’s deadlines to this point and he has been able to extract more from the league than many expected.

Fehr must decide when the league’s true deadline is and negotiate towards it. If January 11th is the day Bettman is prepared to cancel the season, Fehr needs to have a deal to take to his players at that point.

Most believe there is a deal to be made but the two sides are now jockeying over the crumbs.

Fehr has spent hundreds of millions of player dollars to get to this point, it’s hard to imagine he will stop pushing with 10 days or so still left on the clock.

The danger for Fehr is in pushing too much and losing a deal. He’s in a delicate place right now. He can’t afford to lose the whole package in trying to get a few more goodies.

We should know a lot more about this process by this afternoon when Fehr tables his counter-offer. 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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