TORONTO – Donald Fehr and the NHL players have a little more to mull over.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league tabled the remaining elements of its opening contract offer to the NHL Players’ Association on Wednesday. It was an expansion on the opening proposal the league delivered July 13, which included a decreased share of hockey-related revenue, term limits on contracts and a 22 per cent salary rollback.
“We left some open issues that we have to get back to but the overwhelming scope of our proposals are on the table,” Bettman said. “We walked the players and the Players’ Association through those so-called ‘nuts and bolts’ proposals and the process continues.”
Bettman cited training camp and the grievance procedure as examples of ‘nuts and bolts’ proposals. Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, said Wednesday’s talks covered a wide spectrum.
“Essentially we got a list of, in some cases proposals, and a lot of other cases ideas and talking points from the owners about various portions of the agreement,” he said. “What they’ve called their principle proposal was the salary cap reduction and a couple of matters attendant to that.
“This consisted of a lot of (what) we should incorporate into the agreement, understandings we’ve reached over the course of the last agreement, we want to change this, this further explains what we told you last week about this subject, here’s a topic we want to talk to you about.”
All of which, Fehr said, is part of the negotiating process.
“By the way, I’m not criticizing,” he added. “It’s an accepted way of bargaining to say, ‘Rather than say this is what we want, here is something we want to talk to you about,’ and see if we can come to an understanding.
“That’s what we’ve done with a wide variety of areas and they’ve had that stuff from us for 10 days to two weeks.”
Fehr said some of the issues touched upon Wednesday included training camps, injuries, roster moves and medical care. While the union must continue with its analysis of these issues, he didn’t think the two sides were very far apart on them.
“On a lot of things I don’t think there’ll be a big difference in opinion.” he said. “On some other things we have to analyze what the actual affect of moving from A to B would mean for the individual players, our staff and agents that would be working on those matters.
“I don’t think that’s a terribly long process but it’s not a five-minute turnaround either.”
The NHLPA has yet to table a counteroffer to the league’s July 13 proposal, but Fehr has said that should be forthcoming in a week or two.
“The counterproposal that you all keep talking about is a counterproposal on the hardcore economic issues,” Fehr said. “On the rest of this stuff there has been back and forth . . . they’ve had a fairly significant list from us of the areas we want to talk about for 10 days to two weeks now or a little longer.
“We’re continuing to work on the economics of what the commissioner has called (the league’s) principle proposal. As I think you know, we requested a fair bit of background information with respect to those proposals and they’ve indicated they are compiling that but we don’t have it yet. Hopefully that will be forthcoming in the near future.”
The two sides will gather Thursday before resuming talks next week in New York. This session marks the fifth consecutive week that Bettman and Fehr have sat across the table from one another in contract negotiations.
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire Sept. 15. And although both sides could mutually agree to continue talking past that date, Bettman made it clear the NHL would prefer to have a new agreement in place by Sept. 15.
“We’re focused on making a deal on a timely basis,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate at this point as to what would happen if we are not in a position to make a deal by then.
“Our goal is to move this process along as quickly as possible.”