Let’s recap: The NHL CBA talks, which have alternated between wheel-spinning, gamesmanship and nastiness, broke down again Sunday, this time with the sides squabbling about contract issues. The spin was: “I don’t see a path toward an agreement (NHLPA boss Don Fehr) and “candid discussion…no progress” (Deputy Commish Bill Daly).
That’s for public consumption. Daly did tell reporters that of the 17 contracting issues presented by the PA, 14 were agreed on or close. But two of the biggies, Daly said, putting a five-year limit on contracts and pushing free-agent eligibility back a year to 28 and eight seasons rather than 27/7, are a stumbling block. Daly said clubs are serious about those changes: The union believes it gave in on revenues and shouldn’t face more restrictions.
I don’t believe there is all that big a gap on honoring contracts to how to do it to enact a hockey-related revenue-split. Seems they are only a few million per team, per season, apart. Nor do I think that revenue-sharing of between $200 and $260 million is a deal breaker. Also, I can see the NHLPA being okay with ending front-loaded contracts if the league concedes on some other elements. But the hawkish owners are still running the show from the league side.
It’s time for the moderate owners who want to see a delayed season start as soon as possible, to intervene and move the process forward by creating wiggle room on the contract issues. Listen, I believe they should have long ago, long before a quarter of the season went by the boards. A four-owner negotiating committee led by hardline Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs surely seems to be holding up an agreement for the rest of the barons.
Today, the Big Four: Daly, Fehr, Commissioner Gary Bettman and PA special counsel Steve Fehr are in Toronto for the Hall of Fame inductions, which will evoke some of the golden moments of the game. What better inspiration to go back to the table and hash out a deal?