The NHL released a 50-50 proposal to the public on Wednesday to much fanfare, part of a bid to save the season and help the agreement win wider support.
While it's an offer that brings the two sides much closer to reaching a new collective agreement (CBA), financially speaking, contentious issues remain that will likely lead to players rejecting the deal on Thursday.
What follows is a breakdown of the most divisive elements in the proposal:
The NHL’s proposal says
Why it’s so contentious
“For each of the six (6) years of the CBA (and any additional one-year option) the Players’ Share shall be Fifty (50) per cent of Actual HRR”
The players do not appear to be wholly opposed to eventually settling for a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, but they do not want to take a pay cut from the contracts they have already signed. Those deals amount to at least 54 per cent of next season’s projected revenues and 51.5 per cent of revenues in 2013-14.
“Maximum contract length of five (5) years”
NHL players to this point have always been able to sign for as long as they wish, which has led to a considerable number of young stars landing contracts of 10 years or more. While some limit will likely be put in place, the National Hockey League Players’ Association is expected to contest a limit this low.
“Current HRR Accounting subject to mutual clarification of existing interpretations and settlements”
In previous proposals, the league had discussed redefining what was considered hockey-related revenue. The players believe this wording could indicate further tinkering with HRR definitions, which they oppose as it may lower their share of overall revenues. The league denies it will.
“The League proposes to make Players “whole” for the absolute reduction in Players’ Share dollars (when compared to 2011/12) that is attributable to the economic terms of the new CBA (the “Share Reduction”)”
By far the most complex and difficult-to-understand legalese in the proposal, the league’s make whole provision is likely also its back breaker. The players’ No. 1 request in negotiations to date has been to be paid the full value for their existing contracts, something the owners propose to do in this agreement by taking money (estimated to be $210-million U.S.) from players in Years 3 through 6 of the deal to meet the contractual commitments in Years 1 and 2. That would then essentially drop the players’ share into the 48- or 49-per-cent range rather than the 50-50 split proposed for the final four years.
“Entry Level System commitment will be limited to two (2) years (covering two full seasons) for all Players who sign their first SPC between the ages of 18 and 24”
“Maintenance of existing Salary Arbitration System subject to... eligibility for election moved to five years of professional experience (from the current four years)”
Players believe making entry level deals (Standard Player Contracts) shorter and moving arbitration eligibility later will leave a large group of young players entering their third, fourth and fifth seasons without a contract and without any way to negotiate a deal beyond holding out. Currently, arbitration acts a “fail-safe” for getting a “fair” deal done for many of these players. The league, however, believes too many unproven young players are being paid well too early in their careers.