Nearly two weeks after the NHL first presented its proposal to the players union talks on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement are picking up steam.
In a four-hour session on Wednesday, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league outlined the nuts and bolts of its proposal and today in Toronto representatives from both sides will meet for the third time this week.
Donald Fehr, executive director of the players association, said he expects the players to present a counter proposal within the next two weeks.
Even though the players association hasnt put forth any formal proposals yet, and even though they haven't responded yet to our initial July 13 proposal, we did put on the table a comprehensive set of proposals on the other issues beyond our initial proposal, Bettman said.
So the vast bulk of our proposals are now on the table. We walked the players and players association through those so-called nuts-and-bolts proposals, and the process continues.
The current CBA expires on Sept. 15, giving the league and its union a little more than seven weeks to hammer out a new deal. It should be noted that the players have indicated they would be willing to begin next season under the current CBA, but it is unlikely the leagues owners would be agreeable unless the framework of a new CBA was in place.
Among the biggest obstacles in the negotiating process involve how to divide the leagues estimated 3.2 billion in revenue, when a player becomes an unrestricted free agent and the maximum length of player contracts.
The NHL has proposed a reduction of the players share of revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent; lengthening the time of NHL service for unrestricted free agency from seven years to 10; and installing a five-year maximum for NHL contracts.
On a lot of things I dont think there will be a big difference in opinion, Fehr said. On some other things we have to analyze what the actual effect of moving from A to B would mean for the individual players and our staff and agents that would be working on those matters. I dont think thats a terribly long process, but it's not a five-minute turnaround either.
There is a reasonable chance the NHLPA will present its counter proposal net week in New York when talks are scheduled to resume.
As for the Sept. 15 deadline, Bettman declined to speculate on whether a deal could be reached by then.
I'm not going to speculate at this point as to what would happen if we are not in a position to make a deal by then, he said. Our goal is to move this process along as quickly as possible.