The level of frustration and accusations intensified after the fourth consecutive day of bargaining between the NHL and NHLPA in Manhattan yesterday, but it appeared talks will continue Saturday. "Whatever it takes, we're available," commissioner Gary Bettman said after talks broke up Friday night.
The league was unhappy with a memo that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr sent players on Thursday night that described a "significant gap" between the sides, saying it was not an accurate picture of where the talks stand.
Owners have offered to honor existing contracts and guarantee players their share of last year's salaries and will pay them back with interest, but the Fehr memo does not mention that. The league also disputes some other elements, saying revenue sharing and some contract issues are negotiable.
In a briefing at about 9 p.m., Fehr emphatically denied that he withheld information from his constituents and said talks likely will continue Saturday. Fehr said the sides are not as far apart as it might seem.
According to the memo obtained by TSN and NBC, Fehr wrote that revenue sharing "needs considerable work, and the make-whole proposal, while a step forward, a significant gap remains . . . Moreover, at the same time we were told that the owners want an 'immediate reset' to 50/50 (which would significantly reduce the salary cap) and that their proposals to restrict crucial individual contracting rights must be agreed to.
"In short," Fehr wrote, "the concessions on future salary we have offered [at least $948 million to $1.25 billion over five years, depending on hockey-related-revenue growth] are not enough. We are still being told that more salaries must be conceded, and that very valuable player contracting rights must be surrendered . . . While some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made."