Kings forward Kevin Westgarth is said to have been part of a delegation from… (Chris Seward / Raleigh News…)
A delegation from the NHL Players' Assn. delivered another proposal to the league during a meeting Wednesday at the NHL's Manhattan offices. The session broke up after about an hour to allow NHL executives to analyze the latest move in what has suddenly become a hectic give-and-take process. Spokesmen for both sides said it's possible they will meet again Wednesday night in New York.
Working against the NHL’s deadline of reaching an agreement in time to open training camps by Jan. 12 and launching a 48-game schedule by Jan. 19 or face the cancellation of the entire season, the sides have exchanged several proposals in the last few days and appear to be engaged in actual negotiating instead of posturing. Each side has moved toward the other’s stance on some key issues, but they have encountered some sticking points that are proving difficult to resolve.
Among the most contentious issues are the league’s insistence on a $60-million salary cap in 2013-14, which would be problematic for teams that have long-term agreements with many players; the union’s opposition to a cap on players’ escrow payments; and the method of funding of players’ pension plans.
It’s believed that the NHLPA has said it will accept the NHL’s proposed 10-year term for the new labor agreement (with an out clause after eight years) if it can get concessions in other areas, though it’s not clear where those concessions might come. The NHLPA had previously opposed a 10-year term because it didn’t want to be trapped in case the deal doesn’t work in its members’ interest.
The NHLPA is also expected to decide before 9 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday whether it will proceed with the legal maneuver of filing a disclaimer of interest, which would dissolve the union and clear the way for individual players to file antitrust suits against the league. Players voted by a large margin several weeks ago to authorize the union’s executive board to take that action.
The league sent the union a nearly 300-page proposal last Thursday and the union responded with a counteroffer Monday. The league responded to that Tuesday during a meeting that lasted about an hour.
The NHLPA said its delegation Wednesday included a dozen players: Greg Adams, Brad Boyes, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Rick DiPietro, Shane Doan, Andrew Ference, Ron Hainsey, Jamal Mayers, former Duck and King George Parros, Martin St. Louis and Kings forward Kevin Westgarth.
The NHL lost the 2004-05 season to a labor dispute and could ill afford to lose another. A labor dispute in 1994 led to a 48-game, intraconference schedule, a format that probably would be repeated if the current dispute is resolved by the league’s deadline.
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