Wednesday, February 02, 2005


A Look at the NHL's (Final) Offer

The NHL, through its CBA propaganda site, has released the details of its offer from today. Is this the final offer? Many seem to assume so.

You can find the complete details here:

Overall, the elements contained within the offer are very similar to those described by TSN’s Bob MacKenzie in the last column that I linked to.

The major elements, with my comments in brackets:

ENTRY LEVEL SYSTEM: Increase length from 3 to 4 years, and basically capped a rookie’s salary at $850,000/season plus awards for League Awards, Signing Bonus ($40,000-$100,000), and $250,000 maximum in ‘other’ bonuses.

[I don’t mind seeing rookie contracts being capped in such a manner. It’s kind of ridiculous when a player who has never played an NHL game is a sudden millionaire before they ever prove themselves in the NHL. Still, I don’t like the fact that their bonuses are so limited. If Crosby comes into the league and scores 50 goals, he should be paid like a 50-goal scorer]

RESTRICTED FREE AGENCY: 100% Qualifying Offers for Players earning less than $800,000; 75% (or $800,000, whichever is more) Qualifying Offers for Players earning $800,000 or more

[I like the fact that a team doesn’t automatically have to give every single player a raise or continue their salary. If a player plays poorly, shouldn’t you have the option to offer them less without losing their rights?]

Players and Clubs obligated to reach agreement on terms of a new contract by no later than fourteen (14) days after the opening of Training Camp; failure to do so results in player ineligibility (and unavailability to Club) for balance of the season.

[Wow, I can’t see the players taking to this part at all. Basically, it would rule out players holding out their services. Since a player’s only means of extracting a contract is to withhold his services, they should have every right to holdout if they don’t feel they are compensated fairly. There is no way the NHLPA will agree to this part, IMO]

SALARY ARBITRATION - Entirely Mutual [Teams could take players to arbitration, which seems fair to me. Why should it be a one-way street?]

Both parties to Salary Arbitration proceeding have obligation to submit a list of up to five (5) Player comparables (exclusively from among the universe of contracts entered into by Group 2 Restricted Free Agents) prior to briefing, with each side having the ability to strike up to two (2) comparables from the other side's list.

[Does this mean that there will be no ‘courtroom’ style action where the agent acts on behalf of his player and the GM does everything to chop the player’s character into bits? Does the arbitrator simply get a list of names and numbers and makes the decision from that?]

League has option to eliminate Salary Arbitration mechanism in its entirety at any time during the term of the Agreement by converting age of eligibility for Group 3 Free Agency to 28.

[That would be a bomb!! Flood the market with free agents and drive down salaries.]


Age for Group 3 Free Agency reduced to age 30 for the 2006-07 season (with corresponding reduction in years of service requirement).

[Why can’t they start this for the 2005-06 season? Still, I think the players wouldn’t mind this at all]


Maximum term of 3 years (with term of all existing contracts "

[I don’t think this is fair to either side. If I am an owner and want a good young player in the fold for 5-6 years, why shouldn’t I be able to have that option? Security can benefit both sides. Of course, it benefits the player more to have guaranteed money]


The parties agree that the new Player Compensation System shall ensure that total League-wide Player Compensation in any year of the new CBA will not: (1) be below 53% of the League's revenues, or (2) exceed 55% of the League's revenues.

[So, it’s the salary ‘range’ that we have heard lots about. The one positive fact is that some teams will actually be FORCED to spend more money on payroll to meet the minimum requirements.]

1. Accounting will be performed at the end of each League Year, and the escrowed funds will be distributed either to the Players; or to the Clubs; or to both Players and Clubs in order to ensure that Clubs have paid no more than the agreed upon 55% of League Revenues.

-- If NHL Clubs as a group spend less than 53% of the League's Revenues, the Clubs will be required to contribute additional dollars to a pool to be distributed to the Players to ensure that they receive the agreed upon 53% of League Revenues.
[This seems needlessly complicated to me. It makes sense, but it will take a lot of work and cause a lot of arguments]


The NHL is not in favor of a Payroll Tax, and believes it is neither an essential nor useful element of the type of system we are proposing. Nonetheless, to the extent the Union feels otherwise as they have suggested to us, we are prepared to consider the inclusion of a Payroll Tax element in the context of a Floating Team Payroll Range. Specifically, we propose that, at the option of the Union, a single-tier or dual-tier Payroll Tax structure may be incorporated within (and not exceeding) the Floating Team Payroll Range at thresholds and rates to be negotiated

[UMM... a payroll tax on top of a salary cap? Why the hell would the players ever agree to this? If it's not essential to your offer, why bother including this BS?]


Profit Sharing with the Players on a 50 (Players)/50 (Clubs) basis over and above a League-wide profit threshold to be negotiated.

[They don’t go into enough specifics here. If the NHL makes a lot of money, then it seems more than fair that extra profits be shared between the parties. Still, why is it a 50/50 proposition when the league is proposing 53-55% of normal revenues are available for salaries?]


1. Each year's accounting will be performed by an independent accounting firm jointly selected by the NHL and the NHLPA.

-- Mandatory $2 million fine and loss of 1st Round Draft Pick for first Club offense for failure to disclose required financial information.

-- Mandatory $5 million fine and loss of three (3) 1st Round Draft Picks for second Club offense for failure to disclosed required financial information.
[ here is the bone to throw to the NHLPA dogs. The NHLPA, myself, and others have long been distrustful of the NHL clubs to report their revenues correctly. If the NHLPA is truly worried about the ‘trust’ issue, than this aspect of the offer could abate their fears. If this offer is to work and be accepted, then the teams must be honest in their reporting (and not hide revenue streams).

I just worry, however, that the sides won’t be able to agree on an auditor. They can’t even agree on what toppings to order for their pizzas.]

-- To compensate the Players for a shortened 2004-05 regular season with a full Playoffs, we understand that there will have to be a distribution out of revenues generated from the 2005 Stanley Cup Playoffs to ensure that the Players receive the agreed upon 53% of League Revenues.

[Throw the dog another bone! The players have already lost millions and they need an extra bit of incentive to come back and play an abbreviated schedule. If they don’t like the offer as whole, I don’t think they will care much about this. Why? Because the players have already lost most of the salary they would be entitled to, and many have already earned other income playing in Europe.]

SALARY ROLLBACK -- Union's offer of 24% across-the-board Salary Rollback for all remaining years of all existing contracts is accepted.

[You gotta love the smug way the NHL presented this...]

Update (12:44PM PST) - According to, the NHLPA has quickly rejected this offer.

"The League today presented a written proposal with minor variations of concepts that were presented orally by the NHL last Thursday", Saskin said in a statement released after the meeting. "We told the League last week and again today that their multi-layered salary cap proposals were not the basis for an agreement."
So, if you believe the rhetoric, it's simply the issue of the 'Salary Range' that is stopping the deal. All of the other details don't seem to matter.

TSN also reports that the big boys (Goodenow and Bettman) are going to be involved in the talks once again. Does that mean the two sides are getting close and it's just about numbers? ...or is this desperation?

We'll just have to wait and wait and wait and see.

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