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NHL CBA 2012: Owners Go for Hail Mary in Opening Offer

Gary Bettman ponders how ludicrous an offer he can make before the NHLPA releases the enforcer class.
Gary Bettman ponders how ludicrous an offer he can make before the NHLPA releases the enforcer class.

Not more than an hour after answering a question about the CBA and whether or not I thought there would be a lockout for a guest post on another site (in which I answered "there better not be"), there is a Twitter report of what the NHL has offered in its opening offer to the NHLPA. If you are a football fan, you would classify it as throwing a Hail Mary pass on the first play of the game. Only, the Hail Mary has a certain percentage of success attached to it.

From Renaud Lavoie of RDS on Twitter:

NHL proposal to players: 1-reduce players hockey related revenues to 46% from 57 %. 2-10 seasons in NHL before being UFA. 3-contracts limites to 5 years 4-no more salary arbitration. 5- entry-level contract 5 years instead of 3.

My answer now is: Without a doubt, there will be a lockout. Why? After the jump.

Let's do this one "offer" at a time.

Reduce Players Hockey Related Revenues to 46% from 57%

For those who don't speak lawyer, that sums up to: "Hey guys, you want to take a 20% drop in the percentage of monies going toward player salaries, right? Eleven basis points? As someone with a background in studying labor issues, this is an absolute non-starter for a union. It also is, as described by @ShaneofMN on Twitter, is Rick from Pawn Stars saying: "You wanted $8000 for it? I'll give you $1500."

This is an extreme lowball offer, meant to have the union come back and say "We can go 55%." And so on they will dance until it hits 50-50 and no one is happy. Will that happen in time to save games? Only if both sides admit that 50-50 is where it will end up and quit playing games with each other. So... not likely.

10 Seasons in NHL Before Being UFA

Here, the owners are saying - so guys, not only do we want you to cut your pay in a dramatic fashion, but we also want you to delay, for three extra years, your ability to go out and get the one big pay day you are actually likely to ever get.

I honestly don't see the NHLPA willing to budge on this at all. Not a single extra year. If anything, the NHLPA is going to want the number to go down, not up. So, the owners come at them with a near 50% increase in the number of years and then, through negotiation, it is decided to just leave it the way it is, and the NHLPA is supposed to feel proud they won.

Good luck on that one.

Contracts Limited to 5 Years

This is the owners reigning in... the owners. The long term contracts are meant to circumvent the limits they placed on themselves with the salary cap. Long contracts allow for throw away years to be added on, lower the cap hit. Players don't mind them, because the money gets paid at the beginning, and owners don't mind them because they get the player and a lower cap hit to work with.

I can't see this sticking around. This seems like something that was thrown in by the league that the owners are going to be more than willing to negotiate away for something else.

No More Salary Arbitration

BA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. That's a good one. I can't believe for a second the owners think this is something the NHLPA will ever even begin a discussion on. This is something the players fought for and won. They are not about to give it up. Now, if the owners want to give up something major, maybe the players would talk about pushing out the number of years before a player is arbitration eligible, but not a chance in hell the PA gives it up completely.

Entry-Level Contract 5 years Instead of 3

So, guys... take a massive pay cut, delay by almost 50% the number of years before you can go get your pay day, oh, and one more thing... extend the number of years that we can pay you the lowest possible amount, even if you turn out to be the next Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr. This might be something the PA is willing to move on, but I have some strong doubts.

What Does This Mean

All negotiations have to start somewhere. You will see those who feel this is simply the way negotiations work, and things will be just fine. Having witnessed labor negotiations first hand (not in pro sports), when one side gets slapped in the face like this, things take awhile to cool off before the negotiations can even begin.

The PA is quite likely going to reject this offer out of hand, calling it something along the lines of a "farce" or an "insult." That's not a good way to start. This, to me, is not "negotiating in good faith," but more a matter of, "We absolutely spanked you the last time around, so just bend over and take it again, OK?"

I still say there better not be a lockout. The success the league has enjoyed since the new CBA was put in place is too much to throw away. However, after seeing this, I lean towards this getting much uglier before it gets better. Again, not where we want to be right now.

Hopefully people in the Wilderness don't mind discussing current events, because we're going to run out of hockey related topics to write about long before this ends.

UPDATE 11:39PM: Russo adds this on his blog before going on vacation:

Later, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported that in the proposal, the salary-cap ceiling would be $4 million above the midpoint and the floor $8 million below. Brooks also reported the proposal would eliminate signing bonuses (Parise and Suter each get $25 million in the first three years of their $98 million contract) and would mandate the same salary during each season of the max 5-year deal.

Again, more owners protecting themselves from themselves. This just gets more and more absurd.