News Column

NHL Offer Moves on Contract Rights

Dec. 28, 2012

Rob Rossi


In the offer, presented Thursday, the NHL moved from its previous positions on players' contract term limits, variance and buyouts, the sources said.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, in an email Friday, said the league is "not confirming anything at this point."

The Players' Association declined comment through representatives.

ESPN.com first reported the new NHL offer, citing an anonymous player.

The NHL has canceled games through Jan. 14 as part of a lockout that owners enacted Sept. 15, when the last labor contract expired. Daly has previously said a 48-game season must begin by "mid-January."

The NHL is eight years removed from becoming the first North American professional sports league to lose an entire season because of a labor dispute. The league returned in for the 2005-06 with a salary-cap system that also allowed players to collect 57 percent of revenue.

Owners have insisted on a 50/50 revenue split similar to the economic systems that the NFL and NBA put in place after respective lockouts in those leagues in 2011.

A sticking point for the NHL union is honoring of current players' contracts. The NHL has proposed a "make whole" mechanism to pay for current contracts. The league's last proposal called for $300 million in out-of-system money as part of the "make whole."

The sources said the $300 million remains the NHL "make whole" contribution on its new offer. However, the new offer does differ on contracting rights points the NHL proposed over two days of meetings in New York Dec. 5-6, the sources said.

At those meetings, which were not attended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman or union executive director Donald Fehr, the NHL proposed a 10-year labor contract and five-year term limits on veteran contracts. Teams would have been able to sign their own veterans to max deals of seven years, and 5 percent variance.

The new NHL offer, the sources said, calls for six-year veteran contract maximum limits and a 10 percent variance. Also, clubs could buy out the contract of one player for the 2013-14 season, and teams would not be on the hook for a salary-cap it -- though the buyout would count against the overall players' share.

The union executive board faces a Tuesday deadline to file disclaimer of interest that would disband the union. Players authorized the executive board to make this legal maneuver on Dec. 21. Union officials have not publicly said if there is a decision on whether to file the disclaimer with the Department of Labor.

The NHL has a pending class-action complaint against the NHLPA in a New York federal court and an unfair practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

Penguins players, including union rep Craig Adams and high-profile captain Sidney Crosby, have consistently declined comment since the league brought legal action against the union. However, those Penguins and teammates have consistently said they would prefer to quickly strike a deal with the NHL instead of taking this labor fight to the courts.

Jared Simmer, an adjunct public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said that unions filing disclaimers of interest "has been considered the nuclear options in previous labor negotiations."

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2012 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)


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