Throughout the lockout, Penguins player representative Craig Adams has described himself as an optimist, and he still sees reason to believe a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached.
"We don't agree on everything, but it feels like we're making progress," he said after pratice today and after a memo sent Thursday night from NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to the players was leaked to reporters.
The memo, which you can read at the bottom of this post, confirms that the union and the NHL this week have discussed the key issues of revenue sharing and the "make whole" provision where players' contracts are honored in full. It also lists other issues that have been broached, including player pensions and player contractual rights.
A couple of weeks ago, Adams said he believed a deal could get done in the time frame of a couple of weeks if the sides were talking. Today marks the fourth day in a row for formal negotiations, and Adams still believes that.
"We haven't gotten a deal done yet, so I don't want to promise anything," said Adams, who attended Tuesday's meetings. "I feel progress is being made.
"The discussions that I have been at or heard about have been good. The tone is good."
Overall, the sentitment seems to be a little less upbeat. Players are relieved that the sides are having talks, but they aren't sure there is enough reason to get their hopes up just yet. After all, progress has seemed slow, and things could break down at any time.
In his memo -- obtained by prohockeytalk.com, TSN and others -- Fehr notes that there is a way to go to bridge the gap on a lot of issues. Here's the memo. Remember that this was written Thursday night, before today's session(s):
Today, we met with the NHL off and on over several hours. A number of matters were discussed, including our proposal for a new pension plan, revenue sharing, the players' share and salary cap issues, and the owners' "make whole" concept. Present today were Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Manny Malhotra, and Kevin Westgarth (David Backes was present for part of the day), as well as Mathieu Schneider, Joe Reekie, Steve Webb and Rob Zamuner.
No new proposals were exchanged on pension issues, but we will discuss this issue again tomorrow (Friday). We did receive a proposal on revenue sharing in response to the proposal we made this week, but this subject still needs considerable work.
In addition, we received a revamped proposal covering players' share and cap issues, their so-called "make whole", and player contracting issues. The owners finally did formally give us their "make whole" idea, which in dollar terms is similar to the discussions Bill Daly had with Steve Fehr a few days ago. While a step forward, a significant gap remains. Moreover, at the same time we were told that the owners want an "immediate reset" to 50/50 (which would significantly reduce the salary cap) and that their proposals to restrict crucial individual contracting rights must be agreed to. As you know, these include - among other things - losing a year of salary arbitration eligibility, allowing the team to file for salary arbitration in any year that the player can file, extending UFA eligibility to age 28 or 8 seasons, limiting contracts to 5 years, and permitting only 5% year to year variability in player contracts. Individually each is bad for players; taken together they would significantly reduce a player's bargaining power and give the owner much more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career.
In short, the concessions on future salary we have offered (at least $948 Million to $1.25 Billion over five years, depending on HRR growth) are not enough. We are still being told that more salaries must be conceded, and that very valuable player contracting rights must be surrendered. So, while we are meeting again, and while some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made.
We will review today's discussions over night and tomorrow morning before meeting again with the owners. Following our meeting tomorrow with the league, we will be able to provide a broader update.
As always, please contact us if you have any questions or comments.
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