State of CBA negotiations, conflicting reports, make this confusing time for Lightning's Marty St. Louis
Marty St. Louis said he came to the conclusion two weeks ago that it is time he gets on the ice and starts playing. But the Tampa Bay Lightning wing, who played in Switzerland during the 2004-05 lockout, is hesitant to commit to a European team because of the ups and downs in negotiations between the owners and locked-out players on a new collective bargaining agreement.
"I know where we stand as a union. I'm not confused that way," St. Louis said Monday after a skate at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "I'm confused in my decision making. Do I go? Do I not go?"
"Honestly, I'm kind of confused right now," he added. "I'm caught in between. I want to go but I feel, geez, it might be close, but, nope, days later, nope, we're far. Its just like juggling the decision-making process right now."
The New York Times added to the confusion Monday with a story, quoting an anonymous player, that said the owners and Players' Association are a lot closer than it might seem. In fact, the story said the sides are far apart on only one issue -- contracts.
If that is the case, it is news to St. Louis.
"I thought there was a lot more to it," he said. "So, hearing that is confusing."
Indeed, many reports out of the negotiations over the weekend portrayed an acrimonious process in which both sides are spinning their wheels on topics such as the splitting of revenues and the Make Whole proposal in which the league will reimburse players for salaries lost in the first two years of a new CBA. The program is necessary if the players' share of revenues immediately is reduced from 57 to 50 percent as the owners want.
Consider this from TSN's Bob McKenzie:
"So, in some ways, we're no further ahead at all. The two sides still seem to be stuck on the same philosophical divide. The players' proposal focuses not only on protection of the $1.883B they received last year, but guaranteed annual increases regardless of revenue growth or decline. The owners' proposal is intent on getting the player share down from 57 to 50 and while Make Whole will ease the financial strain on the players, it won't eliminate it."
As for contracts, owners want players to be 28 years old or with eight years of NHL experience before becoming free agents. Right now the thresholds are 27 years old and seven years of experience. Owners also want to limit arbitration rights and contracts to five years.
In other words, St. Louis said, "You think there's traction and all of sudden it's gone."
His solution to the impasse that has caused games through Nov. 30 and the Jan. 1 Winter Classic to be canceled?
"I think they just get in a room and come out when they have a deal. That's the way I see it."
Said Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier: "I still think there's a process that has to be done. You try not to read too much into one meeting, if they don't think it went well or us. It's frustrating. We want to play. We want to get this done. We want a deal that's fair for everyone."
Bottom line, though, he added: "It's frustrating, for sure, because they locked us out."