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NHL, NHLPA discuss contracting issues on Sunday

Sunday, 11.11.2012 / 3:30 PM / News

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Members of the NHL's negotiating committee met Sunday with representatives of the National Hockey League Players' Association to again discuss the parameters of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The meeting at the League's Manhattan office, which lasted approximately 90 minutes, was focused on player-contracting issues.

Among the discussion points in the meeting were maximum contract length, variance on year-to-year salary within a contract, length of entry-level deals, salary arbitration and the timeline for restricted and unrestricted free agency.

"I think it is fair to say while there was a candid discussion on those issues and each side explained their position to the other, I don't think there was any progress on any of those issues," NHL Deputy Commissoner Bill Daly said. "We had substantially revised our player-contracting proposals over the course of the summer and in the offer we made to the players to save the 82-game season. We had limited them to what we consider very few tweaks to the system that we think will make the system better, will help us grow revenues in our view and obviously should heighten player salaries over time. Those are important issues to us. We've communicated that from Day One to the Players' Association.

"I would have hoped during the course of the past week they would have shown some movement on those issues toward us, knowing what our fundamental concerns are. And the message we basically got this week was, 'We know what your contracting proposals are and we're not prepared to agree to them.' From my perspective, we have some proposals on the table and the response at least at this point is, 'We can't accept them.' That does leave us in a difficult place."

The NHL and NHLPA have been without a CBA since Sept. 16.

Daly, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth had what was deemed an informal lunch Saturday after four straight days of meetings, during which they discussed many of these same issues.

Both sides got back together Sunday in a more formal setting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr taking part.

"From the beginning, it is sort of been, 'We want it, because that is our view of the world and we'd like to have it,' " Fehr said about the NHL's player-contracting proposals. "It just shifts all the risks against the players. It flies in the face of something really important.

"Players have two interests here. Interest No. 1 is how big the [players'] share is and that's not agreed upon yet either but the parties have at least moved on that. The second one is how does an individual player negotiate his piece of the pie, and the answer is that players will have vastly fewer rights, vastly less leverage for a vastly longer portion of their career under the NHL proposal."

Daly disagreed with Fehr's assertion that the NHL is unwilling to negotiate on specific contract issues, but also made it clear that this part of the CBA is very important to the NHL clubs.

"We think the system will operate better," Daly said. "Obviously, I think everyone knows that we've had concerns for a while about contracts that we feel are circumvention of the system and the cap and certainly that is definitely an issue we need to clean up. The other issue is allocating more dollars to more established players. That has been an important issue for us from Day One. It is something we hear from our general managers regularly. They believe they are forced to make talent assessments too early in a player's career, and it would be better for the game and their teams and the product and ultimately the revenues of the product if they could make those decisions a little later in a player's career. We're talking about one year, guys -- we're not talking about moving heaven and earth."

Representatives from both sides will be in Toronto on Monday for the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and both Daly and Fehr said they expect a discussion on future negotiating sessions.

Fehr said he would like the location of the meetings to shift to Toronto, the location of the NHLPA's main office.

"I always like to look at the glass half full and not half empty, so I like to be optimistic," Daly said. "I don't know exactly where they are on economics. I hope we're getting closer in that regard. With respect to these issues, they are important issues and we heard from the players how important it is to them today. They heard from us how important they are to the clubs, but they are not a lot (of issues). If we can find some way to address our concerns on these issues, we can move this process forward."

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery