NHL CBA Negotiations Starting Point: Shots Fired

As another day of preliminary CBA discussions passed in preparation for the current Collective Bargaining Agreement to expire on September 15th, RDS' Renaud Lavoie revealed what he's saying are the NHL's opening demands for the changes to how the NHL Works.

So let's go over these:

1. Reduce players' hockey related revenues to 46% to 57%
This is not as simple as an 11% pay cut for the players. With $3.3 billion in revenues, the league is asking the players to take $363,000,000 less money. Overall, it's a 19% pay cut. Provided the way the cap is calculated doesn't change, this would bring the cap down to $58.2M, less than where it was in 2010-11.

2. 10 seasons in the NHL before a player can make UFA status
Right now, this is a very complicated formula, but the number is essentially 7. Most players hit UFA status between the ages of 25-27. This would make them wait until 28-30 before being able to have complete control over their own destiny. This would help keep salaries down to a more manageable level as RFAs don't have nearly as much ability to drive up their own prices using the market. It would also nearly guarantee that teams have much more control over players' more productive years.

3. Contract limits to 5 years
We all knew the NHL would ask for contract limits. 5 years is probably as short as anybody could be expected to go. Currently, there are no technical limits on length of contracts and that has been part of what has led to the biggest dispute going right now, the so-called "lifetime contracts" given to players which artificially lower players' cap hits. This could actually drive players' salaries up in the short-run, but it does prevent a measure of risk taken by GMs who hand out long deals.

4. No more salary arbitration
Salary arbitration is not a pleasant process by any means, but neither are lengthy player holdouts or team lockouts. Arbitration is a way to force things to happen sooner. Since offer sheets are apparently something GMs don't do anymore, this nearly eliminates a player's ability to force a decision by a team which may have the patience to essentially engage in one-man lockouts for RFAs who want to be paid too much.

5. Entry-level contracts 5 years instead of 3.
Since EL contracts are the only ones which have individual caps (other than the "no player can be paid more than 20% of a team's cap hit cap), this is a means of keeping cheap players cheap for longer. It's also a way to get players to sign their EL contracts sooner so they can escape from the lower-paid years sooner.

Overall, this is truly just a starting point and it's a set of demands the league would absolutely LOVE to have. The NHLPA isn't just going to give them these demands if they don't ask for them.

The big concern is that these demands are so strict as to be insulting, which is not a productive way to start off negotiations. We'll have to see what the NHLPA counter-offers and we've got plenty of time before there's a real threat of losing games, but this is certainly an aggressive start by the NHL to these negotiations.

[Update: Additional updates from Larry Brooks, who calls this a "Declaration of war against the NHLPA"]

[This change would bring the salary cap for this season down to $54.2M provided nothing else changes.]

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