Lockout Buzz: NHL sweetens offer to players on Thursday night

So much for Bill Daly saying that the NHLPA needed to bring new ideas to the table to jumpstart talks. It’s the NHL who has made the first move in trying to break the stalemate. Although the NHL has not been interested in meeting with the NHLPA (in person), the NHL has tabled a new offer to the players, per reports. The offer was believed to have been made on Thursday night.
*The offer calls for term limit on player contracts to be six years (7 years for teams resigning own players). This is a one year increase from five years (previous offer). Just weeks ago Daly said the 5 year contract term was something he would die on a hill for.
*New offer sees each team afforded one compliance buyout prior to 2013-2014 season. Doesn’t count vs cap but it does vs players’ share
*The $300 million make-whole is back on the table, which was first put on the table during talks in early December. It’s something that has been pushed by moderate owners such as Ron Burkle but Bettman had taken a lot of heat from other owners who wanted it off the table. The $300 make-whole back on the table could be significant.
*The NHL is still believed to be seeking a 10 year CBA term with an 8 year opt out.
*The NHL is still calling for a $60 million cap in 2013-2014, which the players won’t be happy with. They have been seeking a $67 million cap.
Analysis: This is an excellent move by the NHL to try to get things rolling here as the clock is ticking. Fans, though, should always express caution when new offers are tabled as we await the players reaction. As of 9:30 a.m. this morning, only a few select players close to the process are believed to be aware of the offer. A conference call will be happening this afternoon. No new meetings are planned at this point.
What we will find out in the coming days is if the players have finally reached the point of getting serious and decide to push forward and negotiate a deal off the owners latest offer or does Don Fehr try to get the NHL to bend a little more and wait things out a bit longer. If this is a so called “take it or leave it” offer from the NHL, bet on Fehr dragging things out and the response not being great from the players. Indications are a COUNTER PROPOSAL WILL BE MADE BY THE WEEKEND and the players are unlikely to jump at this offer just yet.
Meanwhile, I’ve been very hard on Fehr as I believe he isn’t interested in completing a deal until the last minute but by waiting it out, he’s basically called the NHL’s bluff as the NHL has caved some (when they said they wouldn’t increase offer) and given more to the players in their latest offer than they did in early December. That’s a win for Fehr there, and he’s likely to call their bluff again and try to get them to cave some more. That strategy might work at the end of the day as Bettman has a ton of pressure from several owners (about not cancelling the season) who believe that the NHL will suffer greatly from another lost season. Bettman, though, has always believed the fans would come back no matter what as the NHL is a regional sport and they most likely will. However, Fehr’s stategy of waiting things out doesn’t add up to the salaries players have lost so far as 50.8% of games have already been cancelled.

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William DePaoli

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William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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