The NHL labor talks are not going so well


The NHL labor talks are not going so well

From Comcast SportsNet
TORONTO (AP) -- The wide gap that existed in labor talks between the NHL and NHL Players' Association was hardly bridged on Wednesday, a day after the union presented its counterproposal and with the threat of a lockout now only a month away. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the two sides are "still apart, far apart," and "not on the same page," in making his first public comments since having a chance to read through the NHLPA's offer. Adding that he was "a little disappointed" that the union has yet to present its full proposal, Bettman said the league isn't even at the point of making a counteroffer. "I think there are still a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently," Bettman said, after the two sides met for about an hour at the NHLPA headquarters in Toronto. "So there's still a wide gap between us, and not much time to go." NHLPA executive director Don Fehr described the gap between the two sides as "a pretty substantial monetary gulf." But he placed the blame on the NHL for creating the gap in the first place with the cutbacks in salary and limitations placed on free agency the league made in its initial offer last month. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, and the NHL has already warned that it will lock out its players if a new deal is not reached by then. The NHL regular season is set to open Oct. 11. Bettman's response to the NHLPA's proposal and the large gap that remains between the two sides is regarded as a significant setback. That considerably raises fears that the NHL could be headed for its fourth labor dispute in 20 years. That's a timeframe that includes the 2004-05 season which was wiped out entirely by a lockout; and dates to April 1, 1992, when a 10-day players' strike led to 30 games being postponed and rescheduled. Bettman was pleased that the union, in its proposal, stuck to the framework of a cap system and acknowledged the league has economic issues that need to be addressed. The problem was the union didn't entirely satisfy those concerns from the owners' perspective. "What the issues are and how they get solved and how deep the issues go is something we're not yet on the same page," Bettman said. Fehr disagreed by saying the union made significant concessions and addressed the league's concerns. The trouble was, he said, the union's proposal wasn't what the NHL asked for. "It's not a circumstance in which the players are just going to say, OK, take everything from us,'" Fehr said. "That's basically what it was: You had a 24 percent reduction last time, so let's have another one.' That was their proposal. That's what created the gulf." Under the league's proposal, Fehr said, players' salaries would be scaled back to the level they were before the previous lockout. Fehr also disagreed with Bettman's suggestion that the union has not presented its full proposal. He said the NHL has "almost everything" except for certain player contract issues that are tied to economics. He said the union is considering addressing those issues next week. Though talks on a sub-committee level are scheduled to continue, Bettman and Fehr won't return to the table until next week. Fehr is leaving negotiations to meet with players in both Chicago and Kelowna, British Columbia, to update them on talks. Fehr did say he will stay in touch with Bettman by phone. The union's counterproposal stood in stark contrast to what the NHL made in its initial proposal a month earlier. The NHLPA proposed a deal in which players would give up as much 465 million in revenue if the league's overall revenue continues to grow at an average rate over the first three years of the deal. Fehr indicated that number could balloon to 800 million if the league grows at the same rate it has over the past two seasons. Players would then have the option in the fourth year to revert to the current system, in which they receive between 54 and 57 percent of league revenues. The union also proposed that the NHL commit money to a revenue-sharing system to help struggling teams. Fehr described the players' offer as one that could stabilize the industry. The NHL's initial proposal placed much of the burden on its players. The league is seeking another 24 percent cut in player revenue and the introduction severe limits to free agency. That includes players waiting 10 years to be eligible to become unrestricted free agents, as opposed to seven in the current deal, and eliminating players' rights to salary arbitration. Bettman noted that players in other major sports, such as the NFL and the NBA, agreed to reduce their revenue share in new deals that have been struck over the past year. Fehr said it's unfair to make those comparisons. And he questioned why Bettman didn't mention major league baseball, which has revenue sharing among teams, doesn't have a cap system and has enjoyed labor peace.

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Wizards pick up 3rd-year option on Kelly Oubre's contract

Wizards pick up 3rd-year option on Kelly Oubre's contract

The third-year option on Kelly Oubre for the 2017-18 season has been exercised by the Wizards, league sources tell on Saturday.

Oubre, who will make $2 million for this season, is due to get a bump to $2.1 million for next year. As a first-round draft pick, his first two years in the league are fully guaranteed and the team has the option to retain his rights in Years 3 and 4. The Wizards had to make the move, which was a formality, before the regular season starts next week.

Oubre is expected to be the primary backup for Otto Porter at small forward in his first season playing for coach Scott Brooks.

His numbers and playing time were modest as a rookie as he was not used much under then-coach Randy Wittman, but Oubre's length, athleticism and defensive instincts should make him a better fit. He averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds last season in 63 appearances.

The Wizards made a deal on draft night in 2015 with the Atlanta Hawks to move up to acquire Oubre for Jerian Grant. reported Aug. 1 that picking up the option on Oubre was a foregone conclusion. In exit interviews following a 41-41 season that landed them out of the playoffs, players told majority owner Ted Leonsis that Oubre should've played more because of his energy and defense.

When Oubre was acquired as a 19-year-old with one year of college at Kansas, president Ernie Grunfeld projected it would take him 2-3 years to develop. 

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards roster skews younger, more athletic under Brooks

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Sanford gets back into the lineup looking to be more patient

Sanford gets back into the lineup looking to be more patient

Most coaches are loath to change their lineup when their team is playing well. Yet, even after winning two games with Brett Connolly on the third line, head coach Barry Trotz elected to move Zach Sanford back in for Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers.

“I just try and give them a couple games when I do pull them out so that they can get maybe a little traction,” Trotz said. “[Sanford and Connolly] have been playing well. I want to keep everybody a part of that. We'll just continue to do that. I want to get Zach in.”

As a 21-year-old rookie, getting Sanford consistent playing time is important for his development. Any player making the jump from college hockey right to the NHL, however, is bound to have some growing pains.

“Talking to a lot of guys, that Pittsburgh game was faster than some of the playoff games even,” Sanford said. “That was a tough game to step into, but you even start to notice it after a couple shifts, you get going and you get used to the pace a little bit more.”

RELATED: Winnik avoids concussion, serious ear injury

Sanford admitted to feeling frustrated after his first two games. When a young player reaches that point, spending a few nights in the press box observing the game can be a valuable learning experience.

“It's definitely good to watch from up there and some other spots and kind of see the game at a slower pace and be able to pick up on those little things” he said. “I actually watched the game at home in the video room which was cool. A bunch of different angles and coaches radioing in, you kind of figure out what they think works and what doesn't. Just to be able to see those replays and hear other guys talk about it is definitely good to learn.”

But there’s still no substitute for game experience.

Sanford gets back into the lineup Saturday as the Capitals host the New York Rangers. After spending the last few games watching the action, the young forward has some goals for how he hopes to play.

“I want to be able to make more plays, be a little more patient with the puck instead of forcing a play or just dumping it in. I think that's a big part of my game is being able to slow down, be patient and make plays. I think first few games was getting comfortable and picking up the speed and what works and what doesn't work, but I think now that I'm a little more comfortable I'll be able to slow down and make some more plays.”