NHLPA Comes Back with a Counter-Proposal, SOB Rears his Ugly Mug

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

Wow this all really sucks. On Tuesday there was as much excitement about hockey as there has been since the Kings lifted the Cup back in mid-June. Now in the last two days it’s pretty much all been erased again. On Thursday the NHLPA came back with three distinct variations on the proposal that the Owners made, and to quote Sidney Crosby,

When you make three proposals and get shut down in 10 minutes, it’s hard to think the other side really wants to negotiate.

Guess I’m going to go play in Europe now…

The Same-Old-Bettman, or Bitchman (as he’ll probably go down in history) summarily dismissed the PA’s proposals as “a step backwards.” And Bill Daly said that somehow the Players “misrepresented their 50-50 split.” What all of it means is that we’re probably further from seeing actual NHL hockey than any time before this. Links from [THN] and [PHT] to summarize the day’s proceedings.

A bunch more crap after the break.

Recently I chose to question some words from Penguins PA rep Craig Adams. I felt that he was lying to the fans and overplaying the sympathy that the Players have built up. If I was unwilling to go as far as to endorse the Owners, I at least felt that both sides were really abusing their best interests.

Well I’ve changed my mind again. David Shoalts from the Globe and Mail actually applied a little bit of academic argument to the current CBA situation. This article is a little bit outdated, given that it precedes the League’s proposal from earlier this week [Globe & Mail]. There’s a lot that is very sketchy about the Owners’ reasoning. I admit that I’m a pathetic liberal arts major, but as an aspiring communication scholar, I can tell you that the quasi-logical schemes don’t add up. Further, their rhetoric sucks (but you don’t need me to tell you that).

If you read the THN post especially, you know that the PA’s variations basically only differed from the NHL’s in that they would guarantee existing Player contracts. The important thing to consider is that based on what Player’s make now, and what they would have to give up to adopt a 50-50 split is approximately 13% of real wages (given what Players are already owed in escrow). The PA’s first variation saw this accomplished in a stepping down of wages by 6.5% or so of real wages over the next two seasons, finally settling at a 50-50 split in 3-years’ time. The league grew by 7.2% last year, if that same pace were to be maintained the Players would get paid everything they were owed, and each and every Owner would make several million dollars more. The second proposal is basically the same thing, except spread out over five years. This is a safer proposition given that 7% growth is far, far above the American national average. This would only require the league to grow by about 3%, and it should be able to sustain that. If the league were to be able to continue to grow at 7%, that would be another 4% every year for the Owners to divide amongst themselves.

The third proposal is a lot more contentious. The PA says that it will take an automatic 50-50 split, if the League guarantees all current contracts (presumably through a separate fund). This is where Daly’s “misrepresented 50-50 split” quote comes in, and unfortunately, he’s right. Don Fehr admitted that his side didn’t actually crunch the numbers and the fact of the matter is, that given that the league has been escrowing a significant amount of contract money for the last several years, it would be seriously harmful for the league to need to pay back all of that money right away. Now I’m not a contract lawyer, an MBA, or a millionaire so I don’t have any idea how escrow works, I also don’t have any idea how Fehr could have not done the math to calculate it. But I don’t have to see the numbers to know that this will actually cost the Owners more than what the cap was set at for this coming season, which is to say $70.2 million in guaranteed player contracts. As such the Owners are absolutely right to reject this offer. Unfortunately, it’s the thing that has ruined these negotiations. I said in my last post that the PA would need to be smart and cautious about how they approached a counter-offer, they weren’t, and now we the fans are made to suffer even more.

Elliotte Friedman, who had some controversial comments earlier in the week, came out with the best CBA proposal I’ve heard over the course of all of these negotiations. Check it out here [CBC]. Why the hell couldn’t this work? We’re going to guarantee one thing to players with expiring contracts, and another thing to those who are still under contract for multiple years. Yes, I understand that the PA, like all unions want to be viewed as a homogenous body, but this could actually be an important step to negotiations. Basically, it gives everyone a guaranteed contract. It gives the Owners the real cash savings they need, it gives the guys with expiring contracts the right to play and earn their paycheck, instead of getting bought out, and it guarantees the long-range deals that are already in place. Of course given that neither the Players nor the Owners have been interested in professional arbitration, I’m sure they’re aren’t going to listen to a professional journalist and all of this wisdom will fall by the wayside.

Just as a check up on Penguins players who have gone abroad: here’s where we’re at:

  • Evgeni Malkin: after a slow start the NHL’s reigning MVP is up to 11 points (3 g – 8 a) in 11 games in the KHL. Also when he’s scored, people have noticed.
  • Dustin Jeffrey: has left for the Austrian league and some team called Medvescak Zagreb. Jeffrey is exactly the kind of guy who might end up leaving the NHL and not coming back. He was hurt for a huge part of last year and wasn’t able to find the scoring touch that he had shown in the 2010-11 campaign when he average more than half a point per game. He’s a pending free agent after this season. At best he’s a checking center in the NHL while he could become a points producing machine in Europe. He’s also a guy that could become a good fit on a line with Sid or Geno, so here’s hoping he comes back.
  • Deryk Engelland: has signed with RIHK in the Norwegian League. He also fits into that Jeffrey mold of a player who may not come back, but I do believe that he still has another year on his current contract beyond this one so even if the whole season is lost, he would still be under contract to come back to Pittsburgh.

Woo hoo.

Until the Lockout is Over…


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