In latest offer to players, NHL increases money alloted to guarantee current contracts
By the time the second day of face-to-face negotiations between owners and players to end the 82-day NHL lockout were finished, it was about 1 a.m. Thursday in New York, and at one point union counsel Steve Fehr shared pizza with reporters. But nine hours of intense negotiations have pushed ahead the process for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Both sides generally were tight-lipped about what was discussed, but a few details trickled out.
Canada's TSN reported that the NHL's current offer -- a 10-year deal with an opt-out clause for either side after eight -- included $300 million to guarantee current contracts, up from $211 million. That is important for players who likely will see a salary rollback as their share of revenues goes from 57 to 50 percent. That offer includes $50 million for pension funding.
The league also reiterated its wish for a five-year limit on contracts, except for when a team signs its own free agents. The limit, then, would be seven years. The league also wants a five percent salary variance year-to-year within a contract.
Owners also reportedly have backed off changing rules for unrestricted free agency (27 years old or seven years in the league) and salary arbitration.
Negotiations are expected to continue Thursday, though it was unclear if commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr would be among the participants in the room. The pair has been excluded from face-to-face negotiations as up to six owners, including the Lightning's Jeff Vinik, and up to 18 players, including Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis and B.J. Crombeen, have hashed out the issues.
ESPN reported the union wants no more restrictions on who can attend negotiating sessions. That means Bettman and Donald Fehr, whose testy relationship some believe might have hindered negotiations, might return to the action. If so, it will be interesting to see how they affect negotiations.
It is believed the league wants to begin playing around the Christmas holidays. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it will take about 10 days for games to start after an agreement is reached.