NHL, players union to meet again Sunday

by: Rob Rossi, TribLIVE Updated:

The NHL and its Players’ Association will bargain again Sunday.

“I expect that to be the case,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday morning in an email. “I don’t know the details.”

The NHLPA also confirmed that bargaining will resume Sunday, though an official said details had not been decided.

Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr were to meet Saturday night to work out arrangement for a resumption of negotiations, an NHLPA official said.

The NHL and union met for group negotiations four consecutive days last week, but bargaining broke Friday after a contentious afternoon session.

Any hard feelings from Friday were less likely to play a factor in negotiations than core issues that divide the sides, several Penguins players said since the last bargaining session.

An owners’ lockout of players hit Day 57 on Sunday. It began Sept. 15 with the expiration of the last labor deal.

With games canceled through November there is no chance for an 82-game season, and the shortened season impact on the revenue split in Year 1 of a new labor deal has become a new factor in the dispute.

Owners had sought an immediate implementation of a 50/50 revenue split with players on a new labor deal. Players, who collected 57 percent of revenue on the last deal, wanted a gradual move toward 50/50.

The NHL reported record revenue of $3.3 billion last season. However, that figure was produced from a full season, and owners’ latest proposals have not factored for 82 games to be played in Year 1.

Also, owners contend, there must be conservative projections for future revenue grown because of potential pushback from customers – fans and sponsors, specifically – who are not pleased with a second lockout in eight years.

The most recent NHL proposals have worked off an 82-game schedule for Year 1.

Contractual issues represent another significant point of division between the NHL and NHLPA. Owners have proposed five-year maximum veteran contracts and for free agency to begin at age 28 or after eight seasons of service.

Owners are adamant on a form of players’ contract limits because they want to mandate against frontloaded deals such as the ones signed this summer – most notably by the Minnesota Wild, a mid-revenue franchise, which won the free-agency sweepstakes for forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.

The dual $98 million deals for Parise and Suter call for the Wild to pay for larger chunks of actual salary early in those contracts.

The Penguins had resisted frontloading contracts, at least under the 13-year ownership of Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. However, star Sidney Crosby was signed to a 12-year, $104 million extension in July that will pay him more money in the early years of his deal.

The union opposes contract restrictions. A majority of players’ contracts will expire after this season, and there is pushback from veterans who do not want their potential earnings impacted by term restrictions on future deals.

Aside from the shortened season/future growth impact on a likely 50/50 revenue split and contract issues, the NHL and NHLPA have to bridge a gap on owners’ revenue sharing. The union views alterations for money divided between the higher- and lower-revenue clubs is essential for any new labor deal.

This article was written by Channel 11 News exchange partners at TribLIVE.