Players hold keys to unlocking NHL

Players hold keys to unlocking NHL
December 13, 2012, 10:30 am
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The NHL has come to a dead end in its negotiations with the players’ union.

And now a choice must be made.

Will the players accept the owners’ most recent proposal, which remains unchanged from last week, saving what would amount to a 50-game season, give or take a couple games?

Or will the players walk away from the offer, sending the NHL to its second Armageddon in eight years?

After more than six hours of meeting with federal mediators on Wednesday in Woodbridge, N.J., NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “no progress” was made in a labor dispute that is now at Day 89.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr was equally blunt. “I can’t tell you any progress was made,” he told reporters.

With a shortened season hanging in the balance, here’s where the two sides stand on the three remaining core issues:

The owners are telling the players they must:

  • Accept a 10-year CBA, with an opt-out at 8 years
  • Accept 5-year maximum contact lengths; seven years on players who have spent more than one season with original club
  • Accept a 5 percent year-to-year variance on contract amounts

The players are countering with:

  • 8 -year CBA with opt-out at 6 years
  • Maximum contract lengths at 8 years 
  • A 25 percent year-to-year variance on player salaries

For the most part, the two sides have agreed on everything else, most importantly the owners’ $300 million make-whole provision on current player contracts.

The big question now is whether Fehr calls Gary Bettman’s bluff, believing he can wait another week or two for a better offer.

That strategy could backfire if the owners decide they’ve had enough of Fehr and completely remove their offer from the table and canceling the season.

That’s why it will be interesting to see if Fehr, having drawn every ounce of blood from the owners, will take their most recent offer back to the players for a vote. It would be just as interesting to see how many players would accept the owners’ terms.

My guess is the players would rather take it than leave open the chance of getting a worse deal next summer.

Clearly, the cards are now in the hands of Fehr and the players. Will they play the hand they’ve been dealt? Or will the fold and risk another season without hockey?

What’s your take? Join the conversation below: