Today, the NHLPA will be wrapping up the third and final day of its player meetings in Chicago. The players will choose their 30-man negotiating committee after 2 days of education regarding the upcoming negotiations with the NHL team owners. Meetings between the two sides are expected to begin as soon as Monday. September 15th is the supposed deadline for reaching an agreement but both sides acknowledge that the date is arbitrary. However, as hockey season usually begins in October, the date has a practical value.
NHLPA union head Donald Fehr, who was not involved in the sport when the last CBA was agreed upon in 2005, set the tone for these preliminary meetings with this statement: ""From our standpoint, the starting place is the players made enormous concessions the last time around. The second item that comes to mind is the game generates a lot more revenue than it did before. And you put those two things together, it ought to point you in the direction as to where this negotiation should go."
If only it were that easy.
In the last CBA negotiations, the salary cap was the major sticking point between the players and owners. The "enormous concession" Fehr is most likely referring to was the institution of a hard salary cap. This time, the main point of contention is revenue sharing. Fehr is right in that the game is making more money than ever before. However, in other major US sports, the split between the owners and players is close to 50/50. Currently, the players in the NHL take in around 57% of the total revenue. Look for the owners to try and lower that number closer to 50%.
Other issues to look for the in the upcoming CBA talks include the following:
- Cap circumventing contracts: The rash of long term contracts that rapidly decrease in value over last several years to lower that player's salary cap hit (see the Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa contracts for examples) has lead to the need for some kind of contract reform. The owners will likely attempt to implement some sort of age-related controls on contracts or rules that a contract's value cannot vary by more than a set amount or percentage over its term.
- 2014 Olympics in Russia: Players absolutely want to go, while the owners lament the extra games and the injury risk. Hopefully, the owners will just deal with players going to represent their countries, because denying them that privilege would be a huge insult to many players (especially the Russians) as well as a terrible PR move.
- Salary "Floor: While the salary cap gets the majority of the scrutiny, the salary floor has also become an issue of contention. Small market team owners don't like to have to spend money when their team is not generating much revenue, while players like the floor because it ensures that there's more money being thrown around. Meanwhile, big market team owners want a high floor because they don't want to give money to the small market teams via revenue sharing without those teaming having to spend more themselves.
- Revenue Sharing: an issue among owners to be worked out. Currently, only teams that are ranked in the bottom half of league revenue and operate in a Demographic Market Area with 2.5 million or fewer TV households are receiving money from revenue sharing.
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