In what was hailed as another critical day in the labor negotiations to end the NHL lockout, the NHLPA met with the NHL for roughly an hour on Wednesday at NHL headquarters in New York and made a pretty strong move toward the owners with a percentage-based offer instead of a fixed-dollar amount.
The union was of course represented by the Fehr brothers, union head Donald and lead counsel Steve, as well as nine players. When the meeting took place on Monday night, 18 players were in attendance. Wednesday's players, per the NHLPA, were Adam Burish, Chris Campoli, Dan Cleary, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Shawn Horcoff, Kevin Shattenkirk, Andy McDonald and Daniel Winnik.
The meeting came as a follow-up to Monday night's relatively brief negotiating session in which the NHL made it clear to the union that it wanted to see a full CBA offer of where the players stand before moving further with contract demands. The NHLPA took an extra day to strategize and, as expected, showed up at the league offices with a new offer in hand.
"It's an effort about as much as we can do," Donald Fehr said immediately after the meeting. "NHL will respond to us around 1 PM."
What made the offer so good? Specifically the changing of ideology by the union to make an offer based on percentages, something the NHL was insistent on. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported this detail of the offer.
We're also hearing the NHLPA proposal will work off a percentage of HRR -- as requested by NHL -- and not a guaranteed dollar amount.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 21, 2012
That would be crucial. The NHL has been insistent that it will not accept a deal based on a fixed-dollar amount but instead one that is focused on percentages. The NHLPA meanwhile has insisted it won't take a dollar less than it earned in the last season of the expired CBA. Moving off that line is a big move toward a deal.
Before going any further, just want to underscore how big of a development that is. This puts the players and the owners within the same economic framework, now it's just about finding the right numbers. The philosophical differences are gone when you're talking the same language. This constitutes progress, no doubt about that.
"We're making a move in their direction, so I don't see why they wouldn't consider it," said Sidney Crosby, who was not among those in attendance but was clearly privy to the offer's contents. "It's a little closer to their proposal. It's definitely something they'll have to consider, or they should at least."
How much of a move has the union made? According to Fehr the two sides are just $182 million apart over the five-year length of the proposed deal. That's it. That's sure a long ways from the $1 billion difference they had at the beginning. In context, that's just a touch over $1 million per year for every team. We're in range.
But it's still not all rainbows and sunshine. McKenzie also had this to report on the new offer:
We're hearing today's NHLPA proposal to NHL will include increasing the NHL's $211M Make Whole provision by another $180M.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 21, 2012
That's not so good.
Consider it this way: The NHL originally made the Make Whole offer and it was taking the money from the players' share. Eventually the league relented and agreed to pay the $211 million from its own share. But it was like pulling teeth to get that far and now the NHLPA wants almost twice as much to make the contracts whole? The NHL will have a reaction to that and it's not likely to be positive.
That's not even adding into the mix that with prorated salaries for an upcoming short season (if they reach a deal) the Make Whole money will presumably be less than what was originally proposed, not more. The link there obviously being that the players will receive proportionately smaller wages for a shorter season, thus the Make Whole money would proportionately decline as well.
Still, the NHLPA feels its just (obviously).
"What we want back on the make-whole is not even close to what we're putting on the table, everything combined," Crosby said.
This is the biggest offer made to reach a deal so far from the union. If the NHL responds unfavorably then we're in a world of hurt.