Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL lockout: After series of player concessions, owners want more

The NHL has won its labor war with the players. It's over.

Owners have gotten what some estimates say is $1 billion in concessions from players, assuming a 10-year collective bargaining agreement. Contract rules will be tightened. Players aren't even arguing existing contracts should be honored.

So why are we in Day 99 of the lockout with no end in sight and the fight making its way, perhaps, toward the courts?

Because the league wants even more, a position that frustrates Lightning star Marty St. Louis.

"The truth is hockey players, our whole life, we're groomed to stick together and fight; when it gets tough, to dig in," he recently said at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "I think we're being more than reasonable.

"I think we've done our part."

• Players have agreed to reduce their share of league revenue from 57 to 50 percent. That after agreeing to a salary cap and taking a 24 percent salary cut after the 2004-05 lockout.

• Players have accepted a "make whole" provision of $300 million that is not enough to guarantee all current contracts.

• Players have accepted a limit on contract lengths and agreed that deals that circumvent the cap should be discouraged.

• Players will have a pension plan, but they must pay for it.

All that is left is for owners to do a sack dance.

"We've tried to get stuff back," St. Louis said about the league, after seeking changes, agreeing to keep the same rules on entry-level contracts, salary arbitration and unrestricted free agency. "It's not like we're asking for more. If you look back eight years ago, you want a (salary) cap? We gave them a cap. You want 50 percent (of revenue)? We give 50 percent. What are you giving me?"

In fact, the league is digging in on things that seem negotiable.

• Owners want a 10-year CBA that can be reopened after eight years. Players want an eight-year deal and a six-year re-opener.

• Owners want contracts limited to five years though teams could sign their own free agents for seven. Players suggest maximum eight-year deals.

• To stop contracts that circumvent the cap, owners want no more than a 5 percent difference in salary from year to year. Players would rather see a 25 percent high-low range.

• Players want amnesty contract buyouts that would not count against the cap. The league says no. That would be "money outside the system."

That last issue is sticky, but other than that, there has to be middle ground.

"Everybody I talk to shakes their head," Lightning right wing Adam Hall said. "It seems like (a deal) is right there."

And yet here we are with the league saying mid January is the drop-dead date to get a new CBA and save a shortened season, the union, perhaps, about to decertify, and St. Louis taking his family to its Greenwich, Conn., home at least for the holi­days.

"Expect the worst and hope for the best," he said. "I have a flight back (to Tampa), but who knows? I might just stay up there. A change of scenery might be good."

IN TOWN: Hall, who had been playing for Ravensburg in Germany, is back in Tampa with what he said is an option to return to Europe.

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