Negotiations between NHL, NHLPA fall apart

Jonathan Willis
December 06 2012 06:43PM

Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman held dueling press conferences on Thursday night, and the news was not good. After initially suggesting both sides were close, Don Fehr announced that the NHL had rejected the players’ associations’ latest offer. Gary Bettman followed Fehr up, and announced that the NHL was removing all of the concessions placed on the table in the last meeting.

It was a bizarre evening, and represented an incredibly strange conclusion to a series of talks between owners and players that had initially seemed to create some traction between the two sides.

Donald Fehr's press conference opened on a hopeful note. He detailed an NHLPA proposal that had been made to the league, and which contained the following details:

  • Agreement on the dollars presented in the NHL's last "Make Whole" offer
  • An eight-year CBA term with a mutual out-clause after six years, rather than the ten-year term presented by the league with a mutual out-clause after eight years.
  • Eight-year term limit on contracts
  • No greater year-to-year variance than 25% at any point of the deals

Fehr concluded his statement by emphasizing how close both sides were, and that an agreement could be reached very quickly. 

But no sooner had Fehr left the podium than word came that he was about to return. The NHLPA - in the person of Steve Fehr - had received a voice mail from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, with news that the league had rejected the NHLPA's proposal and that there was no purpose to continuing the meetings; he added that unspecified measures had been taken off the table. Then news came that Bettman and Daly would be holding their own press conference.

Bettman's press conference showed the commissioner at his most emotional, angrily refuting NHLPA statements. Bettman explained that the league's offer last night had not been intended as a negotiable proposal, and that all the NHL wanted was a yes or a no answer. Instead, the NHLPA chose to counter.

Bettman spoke at length, but conveyed a basic message: the NHL had made all the concessions they were going to make, and owners were incredibly angry at their latest proposal being treated the way it was. He added that the league was withdrawing its latest offer. He further railed against the NHLPA's assertion that the two sides were close. He and Daly made comments about "a line in the sand" and "hill to die on."

The NHL followed up Bettman's press conference by releasing statements from ownership.

The bottom line: negotiations have fallen apart, and the NHL is now moving away from its last offer.

It's unclear exactly what happens next, but a move to the courts would seem to be the most likely outcome.

One other thing to emerge from Bettman's press conference: he says he does not have a drop-dead date on the season. But he also said he can't imagine playing less than the 48 games they played in 1994-95.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 SmellOfVictory
December 06 2012, 06:58PM
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Too bad. That's actually a fairly reasonable offer, although I wish they'd kept the CBA length of 10 years (8 yr opt-out).

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#2 Krusher
December 06 2012, 07:00PM
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They are all a bunch of spoiled brats. Today was the breaking point. I don't care if they play until 2015. So childish that they care more about rhetoric and P.R vs being able to communicate with each other. What a joke

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#3 dcsj
December 06 2012, 07:11PM
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Yeah, I watched most of Bettman's presser. I think all hope of a season died today. There are a number of hard-liners leading the players group right now, unless the 'silent majority' overrules them, we're not going to see the NHL for a while.

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#4 canuck31003
December 06 2012, 07:11PM
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Somehow I'm not surprised. I wonder how "yes or no", take it or leave it offers are considered negotiating.

Oh well. They may as well cancel the entire season, now, to save everyone (aka me) from wasting their time on all this frustration and futility.

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#5 The 'Real' Ron Burgundy
December 06 2012, 07:18PM
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JW, Do you have a link to Bettman's presser from this evening?

Can't seem to find it

Thanks, Ron

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#6 Alt
December 06 2012, 07:20PM
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You were right Jonathan,It is the beginning of the end,of the season and probably half of next season.I don,t think there,s anyone in the league who love,s the game.These present owners seem to be ok with destroying what they have,while trying to fix problems that they themselves have helped create.How anyone can think these guys are savvy is beyond me.They are ,for the most part,despicable.

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#7 Ben Wendorf
December 06 2012, 07:35PM
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Eh, I'll probably watch when they come back.

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#9 The 'Real' Ron Burgundy
December 06 2012, 07:40PM
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JW,

Never-mind TSN has it up now!

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#10 They're $hittie
December 06 2012, 07:50PM
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Yup Crosby and the players got a few concessions and than got greedy for more.

Doesnt seem to me like Crosby and Toews and there huge salaries represent more than say 5 percent of the league.

Its all over folks.

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#12 beloch
December 06 2012, 07:59PM
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I knew this was going to happen as soon as word came out that they'd let Donald and Gary back into the meeting room.

There will be no NHL hockey this year unless the players and owners continue to meet without those two, as they did on Tuesday and Wednesday. Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman have lost objectivity and are engaged in a personal struggle against each other. Neither man is willing to "lose", but both sides must "lose" something in compromise so that they can "win" an end to this lockout. No solution is possible if it is left in their hands.

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#13 jeremywilhelm
December 06 2012, 08:09PM
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Oh yeah I am fully certain that those mega stars Manny Malholtra and Ron Hainsey and their huge contracts are not representative of the depth players in this negotiation.

There are dissenters in every war. Probably the same type of people that support the NHL owners wholeheartedly and believe the players are greedy.

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#14 Matt Henderson
December 06 2012, 08:29PM
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*throws up all over self*

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#15 Wanyes bastard child
December 06 2012, 08:29PM
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@Matt Henderson

*throws up all over arch*

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#16 ?
December 06 2012, 08:34PM
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What a joke. And the saddest part is that I'll come right back when they're done with all the BS. Sigh

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#17 I tried it at home
December 06 2012, 08:36PM
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Im just at the point of "really? thats what all this lead up to? really?" And, I put this on the owners. They started the lockout because of the contracts THEY handed out, at least through thier GMs, and now have the gall to demand signed agreements be tossed aside. Screw this. Ill watch again when its over, but from the friendly confines of my neighborhood pub. No more putting money down on nights at the game, Im just sick of this crap.

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#18 They're $hittie
December 06 2012, 08:37PM
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@Jonathan Willis

regardless he is the leader of the group.

Give the NHL offer to the PA and let them vote. I will bet we are looking at a 65% in favour of it.

And for kicks get the non union guys that will be playing in the NHL to vote to see what the Future players, that these guys are fighting so hard for to see what they would vote.

five teams make 222M and the rest lose 88M. divide that by the 3.3B revenue and we have a 4.1% profit. Wow what a healthy business.

Cant wait until 230 players are out of jobs because ten teams will have to fold if the economics dont change and the lockout has killed the needed american fan base.

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#19 vetinari
December 06 2012, 08:48PM
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Clowns. All of them.

Pitch Bettman and Don Fehr out of the room. Empower a group of owners and a group of players with the ability to bind their respective side. Daly and Steve Fehr can hang out in the hotel bar or restaurant while the sides negotiate and be on standy for caucusing or questions. Otherwise, lock the two groups into a hotel room. No one can leave for 48 hours. If a deal can't be struck within 48 hours then cancel the season.

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#20 Ben Wendorf
December 06 2012, 08:48PM
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@They're $hittie

I can only hope they'd fold ten teams that are dragging revenue down. It'd be easier for me to do league-wide analysis, too. League quality would go up...there'd be better players in the AHL - we'd be down some pretty sad-sack ownership to boot.

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#21 Newj
December 06 2012, 08:48PM
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Still want to see my Oilers play in 2013, but I find these CBA negotiations absolutely intriguing. If there is a resolution in the coming week(s) I know I will miss watching the posturing, spinning & emotions that these two sides are showing. It is "thee best reality show" currently on TV.

Seeing Bettman reach for words and trying to maintain his emotions tonite was truly a news conference for the ages. I eagerly await Fehr's rebuttal.

Fantastic drama. Why no quotes or sound bites from Katz?

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#22 T__Bone88
December 06 2012, 08:49PM
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From what I got out of this was that the players accepted the make whole so basically it comes down to CBA term and contract term. Is it really worth losing a season so that your star player can make more to buy that extra beach house. After going through this mess why would the current players only want a 5 year CBA if would mean they would have to go through another 2-3 CBA negotiations in their careers. Of all the major North American sports the NHL has the best I think for the players in that it offers guarantee contracts and probably the quickest to cash in big time. I like the 5/7 contract years proposed by the league since it lets the teams losing the star player get some form of compensation by sign and trades.

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#23 Crooked
December 06 2012, 08:59PM
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I'm starting to not care if the NHL ever comes back. If someone wants to give you millions to play a game without needing to murder someone or perform some degrading acts, you should be thankful and accept it graciously. This isn't about people fighting to feed their families, this is about people fighting to feed their egos. Disgusting.

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#24 BURROWSHASCRABS
December 06 2012, 09:04PM
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Stupid fu$@%in idiots, screw them all. I hope the players lose a ton of money!

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#25 boourns
December 06 2012, 09:06PM
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I love the "no point in continuing" line. What a bunch of idiots. The league needs better revenue sharing big time. Then the leafs would be on bettman like white on rice to grow the game. get teams like phoenix out and put them into proper hockey markets. Then they would make money....teams losing millions and they think that's a good place for them.....the stupidity behind the nhl is astounding

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#26 Meh
December 06 2012, 09:06PM
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I do realize that its easy to comment on how insane this all is from my arm chair at home, but the one question that I cannot answer is why both sides are so concerned with 5 year contract maximums. Without looking anything up, I'd guess more than 90% of NHL'ers will never see a contract longer than 5 years, and some type of variance cap from year-to-year for contracts should stop back-diving. Do the superstars really have so much sway that the average guy is willing to kill a season (and many of them perhaps their careers) over it?

Anybody have any cogent answers on this?

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#27 DoubleJ
December 06 2012, 09:40PM
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I honestly believe Donald Fehr is going to try and break NHL. He believes he can rewrite the cba and knock out the salary cap. Fehr is going to not accept any contract. Fehr has an ego and is insane to believe he can beat the owners. Unions used to have power, their times has come and gone. They have no power any more.

The only way this season starts this year is if the players can get the last deal offered or simular and ask for a vote on it. Or they remove Fehr.

Plain and simple Fehr is the reason there has been no deal. He finds a new issue on every new offer, that's "holding up the two sides from making a deal".

He Has no intentions on agreeing to an offer unless the players make him.

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#29 RexLibris
December 06 2012, 10:19PM
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I'm not opposed to cancelling the season, partially because of some of the development benefits to the Oilers. I do object when it is bandied about with competing messages trying to curry my favour despite the petulant tone in which it is delivered.

My stance overall is this, I want the Oilers to win a lot of Stanley Cups. To do that they need to draft well this year. If the season is cancelled it is almost assured that they will not. That runs contrary to my previously stated goals. As a result, this sucks.

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#30 Newj
December 06 2012, 10:46PM
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@Jonathan Willis

The long term contracts (which have become increasingly common) have for the most part not been wise decisions by ownership/ management. It is quite possible that their insistence to shorter terms is to protect themselves from themselves in making those poor contracts decisions going forward.

I concur, this length of contract issue seems like a bit of a red herring given all the other safety nets like revenue sharing, caps and escrow accounts.

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#31 Sanaa Montana
December 06 2012, 11:00PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Do you know how the players were picked to attend?

How many were invited?

Do you wonder why some of the player were even there, and on what bases?

Why are Craig Adams, Mathieu Darche, Kevin Westgarth(who the #@$% is Kevin Westgarth?), Jamal Mayers, Shane Doan and Andy McDonald at the meetings? They are way too old to have a say and an interest in the CBA future. Outside of Doan and McDonald-do the rest of them have a future in the NHLs upcoming season?

Martin St. Louis is 37 years old. Is he looking for a job with the PA when he is done? Is that why he is there with Fehr and Co.? Same could be asked for Parros.

Why is there no Europeans in the line-up? Why is there no players in with entry level contracts? Doesn't this concern them? Why is there no role players from losing NHL frachises present?

If Horcoff is not there in support and as a example for the owners-he has no business being there. He is a perfect example of a contract signed that is not being honoured. Isn't that one of their main arguements? They want the contracts honoured. When Horcoff is paid to play 5-7 million dollar hockey, and he plays 1.5-3 million dollar hockey and the owner/management can't do nothing reasonable about it-damn right the game and contracts need fixing.

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#32 Puritania
December 06 2012, 11:02PM
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When I first heard musings of the lockout stretching out to include next year I laughed. Now I don't doubt that it can happen. As a staunch supporter of the NHL and a diehard, I just don't care anymore. It's never been more apparent that the league and the PA don't care about the fans one iota. The longer they go the tighter the noose they put around their own neck gets.

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#33 T__Bone88
December 06 2012, 11:18PM
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I really don't buy that if you limit the contract years the middle tier players won't make as much. It's not hurting the players in the NBA which the NHL is basing this thing off of. Because contracts are guaranteed limiting the years protects the team from players regressing while still making a big salary. The elite players will be paid the same but it will make the GMs rethink the Horcoff/Gomez/Bryzgalov type deals which are really the root to why some players don't get paid as much. Also limiting the contract years would eliminate the gray area of if the NHL allowed a Luongo type deal it must do the same to another player signing same type contract.

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#34 Bill
December 06 2012, 11:29PM
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Idiots! Find common ground on the CBA length, the contract term limit, and the variance year to year!!!!

>9 years & 7 yr opt out

>7 yrs contract lenght

>10-15% year to year variance.

Put in 2 more frigging hours and agree on these terms, and given that you've agreed on 50/50 and the 'make whole'.....lo and behold you've got the framework of a deal.

Even a layperson can see that both sides WILL NEVER get back what they lose. For the players it's the salary they stand to lose when this season is gone - it's never coming back. For the owners it's a season of lost revenues PLUS the spectre of league sponsors (rightly) demanding repayment of funds and suing for same. For both sides, it's a hugely diminished revenue stream if the season's gone and there's no play until sometime the next season. League revenues at restart will already be devastated even if they play this year....and most markets in the league are going to be very, very quiet if the league doesn't operate this season at all. It may take the entire length of the CBA to recover to square one.

Enough of the pissing contests, you're all losers in this and losing more every single day this continues. Be men and find the common ground. It's a pathetic display.

I think the rank & file on both sides (especially the PA) need to take a hard look at where their respective leadership groups are taking them. This is approaching the precipice.

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#35 Derzie
December 06 2012, 11:39PM
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The players are offered billions of dollars, a decade of CBA peace, pampered lives, fair contracts that the players don't have to even honour, pension plan, every perk known to man. How can any reasonable person turn that down? It is all about 'winning'. If you listened to Bettman tonight, who I normally despise, and was not in agreement, you weren't listening. Fehr is the cancer splitting this league apart. He wants Bettman's head as a trophy. He is using the player's competitive nature to support his evil plan.

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#36 Tayranchula
December 06 2012, 11:47PM
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Lock them in a room (for 100 days if neccesary) until a friggen deal is made. This is an absolute joke! The NHL and the players are complete scumbags and greedy pricks. I could use alot of foul language to describe how I feel. This whole thing is a complete joke and everyone involved should be fired.

Honestly make an all Canadian based hockey league with no salaries and televise it to the Canadians and get on with life its a god damn sport that people want to watch.

We dont want to watch and listen to millionaires whine about dollars.

COMPLETE FRIGGEN JOKE!!!!

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#37 Dr. Philosophy
December 06 2012, 11:50PM
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If the purpose of the league is to provide entertainment, they are doing a great job notwithstanding the fact that they are not operating. TV stations report every day about the progress or lack thereof of negotiations. We have villians in Fehr and Bettman. You might even, borrowing from broader Pop Culture, identify as "Team Fehr" or "Team Bettman". There are a host of supporting characters on each team, each with their own personalities. We can and do cheer for our own side, criticize the other side ("what a bunch of morons"). Most importantly, we can and obviously do engage emotionally with the process. For entertainment value, this is maybe a little formulaic, but all of the ingredients are there for a classic drama.

We should be happy, as consumers wanting to be entertained, that we get all of this for free!

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#38 Cheap Shot Charlie
December 06 2012, 11:54PM
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Please cancel the season! I hate soap operas! That's why I watch sports!!! Just kill 2012-13 already!

Note: it's embarrassing when a bunch of Internet bloggers and posters are smarter than an NBA commissioner and a MLB union rep. I side with the Nation!

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#39 Dave Lumley
December 06 2012, 11:55PM
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boourns wrote:

I love the "no point in continuing" line. What a bunch of idiots. The league needs better revenue sharing big time. Then the leafs would be on bettman like white on rice to grow the game. get teams like phoenix out and put them into proper hockey markets. Then they would make money....teams losing millions and they think that's a good place for them.....the stupidity behind the nhl is astounding

Sure, lets have more revenue sharing. All us stiffs that go to Oilers games can pay an extra $10 per ticket so Tampa Bay can drop their ticket prices to get more people in the door. Or just leave the building empty. Fans, who needs fans, when I have cash rolling in.

I am sure the billionaires are stupid just hopefully not that stupid.

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#40 Captain Obvious
December 07 2012, 12:41AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The argument being made by various players and proxies for the NHLPA is that by eliminating long term deals, you wipe out the middle class.

The thinking, as I understand it, goes like this:

- Big-time superstars sign long-term contracts w/ reasonable cap hits to have a chance of winning - This leaves more money for teams to add the supporting cast - If term is eliminated, big stars won't have security of long contracts - so they'll take shorter deals and more money - This takes money out of the pockets of the supporting cast

I suspect there's some truth to it, but I don't see it as a hill to die on argument.

This is why you hire smart people to negotiate for you. It's a mathematical certainty that term limits would transfer money away from the "middle class" players.

Right now teams compete for players by term length as well as annual salary. If the term is limited to five years then every in demand player will sign a five year contract which means that teams can only compete on annual dollars. This will drive annual salaries up thus limiting the amount left over for all those players not signing five year deals.

Not only is it impossible for this not to happen, in addition to shifting money away from the "middle class," but by increasing the annual salary of star players it will also hurt the small market teams the most, precisely those teams it is supposed to benefit.

This is how stupid the NHL is. They are playing hardball over a contract provision that is going to harm those teams the lockout is supposed to help.

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#41 konst16
December 07 2012, 02:22AM
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@Jonathan Willis

"The thinking, as I understand it, goes like this:

- Big-time superstars sign long-term contracts w/ reasonable cap hits to have a chance of winning - This leaves more money for teams to add the supporting cast - If term is eliminated, big stars won't have security of long contracts - so they'll take shorter deals and more money - This takes money out of the pockets of the supporting cast"

More like.. "so they'll take shorter deals and more *caphit*".

For the deals the NHL is trying to eliminate (via a 5 yr cap), there is no way I could see similar future players signing contracts that pay them more in the next 2-3 years, as the weber/parise/suter/myers/richards/ehrhoff/kovalchuck/loungo's of the league have over the past 2-3 years. *All* players will get less. Any attempt to suggest it will impact the "middle class" significantly more than the top 5%, seems disingenuous to me.

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#42 Rude
December 07 2012, 05:28AM
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Awesome profile picture

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#43 Rude
December 07 2012, 05:31AM
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@ Puritania that is

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#44 canuck31003
December 07 2012, 06:49AM
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My relatively uninformed two cents:

-no contract term limits; -give the NHL whatever variance limit (5%?) they want; -allow owners to buy out limited number of contracts, without affecting cap, but they have to pay contract in full. eg. if they signed for 20 yrs, $100 million, at the end of the day the bought out player still gets $100 million; -bought out player become UFA with immediate effect no matter what stage of his career/age.

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#45 DieHard
December 07 2012, 08:30AM
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Captain Obvious wrote:

This is why you hire smart people to negotiate for you. It's a mathematical certainty that term limits would transfer money away from the "middle class" players.

Right now teams compete for players by term length as well as annual salary. If the term is limited to five years then every in demand player will sign a five year contract which means that teams can only compete on annual dollars. This will drive annual salaries up thus limiting the amount left over for all those players not signing five year deals.

Not only is it impossible for this not to happen, in addition to shifting money away from the "middle class," but by increasing the annual salary of star players it will also hurt the small market teams the most, precisely those teams it is supposed to benefit.

This is how stupid the NHL is. They are playing hardball over a contract provision that is going to harm those teams the lockout is supposed to help.

But that is where the CAP comes in. A team stretched to the cap limit may not be able to outbid other teams with cap room thus making teams more competitive.

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#46 Moses
December 07 2012, 08:31AM
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I am a hockey fan.

I am now finding myself happy when they do not reach a deal. If the players can't all speak up and have a vote I think I would rather see them all lose a year of employment.

As far as I am concerned the players side is making terrible decisions for the majority of its membership and I want them to have to live with those decisions.

Unfortunate for those that will lose their NHL career during this lockout but those supporting role players should be very vocal during this time and not worry about loyalty to the star players.

Sidney Crosby and company will not be sending you cheques in the mail next year when they are still making the big bucks and half of you are no longer employed by the NHL.

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#47 Subversive
December 07 2012, 08:34AM
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I hate all of them.

I hope decertification becomes a real option if the season is lost.

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#49 dman09
December 07 2012, 09:28AM
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@Jonathan Willis

I'm having a major issues with some peoples comments on here. Correct me if I'm wrong but people keep saying that the talks started to fall apart when Bettman and Fehr joined back in. I'm pretty sure Bettman was not in the room because he believed his presence would have a negative effect. Fehr was the only one who joined. See the common link people. When you get a tweet from players saying they were ready to sign and Fehr said "no we can get more". Stop blaming Bettman, for once he's actually trying to get this thing sorted out.

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#50 boourns
December 07 2012, 09:28AM
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@dave lumley

I know you oilers fans don't read much but if you actually read what I said you'd think revenue sharing was good. I said we had to move teams like pheonix, this includes all the other teams dumping money down the drain but pheonix is the worst so they where who I picked. Greater revenue sharing would mean that the board of governors would be all over Bettman to fix issues like this. They wouldn't be ok with putting teams in these markets. The reason they don't care is because they get the huge relocation or expansion payments from the new owners when they move a team or get an expansion club. Then they can use the excuse of teams losing money to hammer down the share of revenue the players are getting and then they can make a ton more. If revenue sharing does not go up they have virtually no incentive to make the league healthy and loads of incentive to let it go bad so in the next CBA they can take even more from the players. This can happen since the NHL does not have a mority rules type of system, they only need 8 votes to make something happen. You can see the problem with this

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