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Fehr's note to NHLPA indicates players' bargaining power at issue

WINNIPEG -- The pessimism and negativity is out there but at least one member of the Winnipeg Jets doesn't think it belongs just yet.

Bryan Little said after this morning's workout at the MTS Iceplex that the continuation of negotiating sessions in New York outweighs any interpretation of the memo sent to players late Thursday by NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.

At right, Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little and Dallas Stars centre Ryan Garbutt (a former Winnipegger) chase after puck during practice at the MTS Iceplex Friday as the NHL lockout continues.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

At right, Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little and Dallas Stars centre Ryan Garbutt (a former Winnipegger) chase after puck during practice at the MTS Iceplex Friday as the NHL lockout continues. Photo Store

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players Association

KATHY WILLENS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players Association

"I looks like there's progress finally," Little said today. "It's not a done deal by any means but it's great that they're meeting and meeting on consecutive days to figure this thing out. Before, the two sides weren't even talking."

Fehr's memo outlines some of the issues and the differences between the sides, confirming that no agreement appears close.

"I'm concerned a bit (about the gap) but at least they're talking," Little said. "They could call it quits and not talk again for a while but they're hammering it out trying to figure something out, trying to find some way to close the gap."

Here's the text of Fehr's Thursday note to players, which has gone public:

"Today, we met with the NHL off and on over several hours. A number of matters were discussed, including our proposal for a new pension plan, revenue sharing, the players' share and salary cap issues, and the owners' 'make whole' concept. Present today were Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Manny Malhotra, and Kevin Westgarth (David Backes was present for part of the day), as well as Mathieu Schneider, Joe Reekie, Steve Webb and Rob Zamuner.

"No new proposals were exchanged on pension issues, but we will discuss this issue again tomorrow (Friday). We did receive a proposal on revenue sharing in response to the proposal we made this week, but this subject still needs considerable work.

"In addition, we received a revamped proposal covering players' share and cap issues, their so-called 'make whole,' and player contracting issues. The owners finally did formally give us their 'make whole' idea, which in dollar terms is similar to the discussions Bill Daly had with Steve Fehr a few days ago. While a step forward, a significant gap remains. Moreover, at the same time we were told that the owners want an 'immediate reset' to 50/50 (which would significantly reduce the salary cap) and that their proposals to restrict crucial individual contracting rights must be agreed to. As you know, these include -- among other things -- losing a year of salary arbitration eligibility, allowing the team to file for salary arbitration in any year that the player can file, extending UFA eligibility to age 28 or eight seasons, limiting contracts to five years, and permitting only five per cent year to year variability in player contracts. Individually each is bad for players; taken together they would significantly reduce a player's bargaining power and give the owner much more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career.

"In short, the concessions on future salary we have offered (at least $948 million to $1.25 billion over five years, depending on HRR growth) are not enough. We are still being told that more salaries must be conceded, and that very valuable player contracting rights must be surrendered. So, while we are meeting again, and while some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made.

"We will review today's discussions over night and tomorrow morning before meeting again with the owners. Following our meeting tomorrow with the league, we will be able to provide a broader update.

"As always, please contact us if you have any questions or comments."

"Best regards.

"Don"

History

Updated on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 12:10 PM CST: updates with comments from Bryan Little, adds photo

2:06 PM: updates with current photo

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