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article imageOp-Ed: Time for NHLPA to buckle on long-term, front-end loaded contracts

By Marcus Hondro     Sep 10, 2012 in Sports
Negotiations for a new CBA between the NHL and the NHLPA remain at an impasse under a week before the Sept. 15 NHL imposed deadline. Without a new contract by Saturday when the old one runs out, Gary Bettman says the league will lock players out.
Naturally one sticking point is money. The latest league offer was a revenue share of 46 percent, this after the player's have enjoyed 57 percent over the length of the last CBA, signed after the 2004-05 season-long lockout. The NHL wants the salary cap down to $58 million from the projected $70.2 million it would have been under the former split.
Expect movement during this coming week, and, relatively speaking, dramatic movement. The owners started at 43 for players, 57 for them, sending a message given it was reversed in the last CBA, but the players budged only incrementally in their rebuttal. That left the owners bumping up their offer by only 3 percent when they tabled their second offer.
The players came back with virtually no percentage movement and Gary Bettman said owners weren't going to negotiate with themselves and he took his numbers and went home. There have been informal talks since but nothing official and nothing seems to have been accomplished, beyond both sides likely stating what they think the next round of talks should concern themselves with.
NHL owners: bending the rules to win
Which brings us to one of the things the players seem to be concerning themselves with - length of contracts and the ability of owners to front-end load them to lure players into signing. The owners, wanting to win, or arguably many of them wanting to win, are going to bend CBA rules to get a player they want to enable their club to have a shot at the Stanley Cup (case in point Ilya Kovalchuk, Jeff Carter, Zach Parise, etc. etc.).
This is driving contracts up and the NHLPA wants to continue allowing for such contracts. But it's an item they should give up, pare contracts down to somewhere around 7 years, with bonuses no higher than a set figure, in exchange for monetary considerations. These contracts help only a few and it is too lopsided to have Alexander Ovechkin making $9.5 million a year while Brayden Holtby (the go to guy in goal in the 2012 playoffs) makes $638,000. That's a massive disparity and yeah, Ovechkin is a franchise guy but, well, that's a massive disparity.
NHLPA: room to move in CBA talks
It makes little sense for the NHLPA to fight to retain it. Why should players making a much lesser amount than a superstar, say the minimum of $525,000 a season, support a system that allows for such a great gap? Yeah, the 40 goal scorers, the game-changing defenders and goalies need to be compensated at a higher level, but those numbers are out of whack. After all, Alec Martinez, at $737,000 a year busted his butt to win a Stanley Cup as much as Drew Doughty, at $7,000,000 did.
Both sides will make their line in the sand pitches this week to avert a lockout, the question being how much are they willing to move that line. It looks like the NHL is aiming for a 50-50 split, which is where both the NFL and NBA are, and we may get near that figure by Saturday. To help get it there, the NHLPA should let go of those long-term, front-end loaded contracts that give so much to so few (and in the long run cost fans in ticket prices). After all, unions are supposed to be about the collective.
Just like teams are.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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