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Frozen Grounds: The NHL May Be Heading For A Lockout - Again

Despite losing a season to a lockout eight years ago, the NHL may be heading that way again. There's still time for things to be worked out, however.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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The NHL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) expires on 15 September of this year. Negotiations are currently going on, but at the moment, nothing but conjecture and rumors have surfaced since the NHL presented their proposal to the NHLPA back on 13 July. The last CBA negotiation resulted in the players being locked out by the owners, and it also caused the loss of the entire 2004-2005 season.

Due to personal technology issues, I'm unable to go into the details of the last CBA negotiation at this time. And, in fact, am also unable to really go into detail about the state of the negotiations right now. Perhaps by next week my technology issues will be resolved and I'll be able to hopefully do this topic some justice.

Instead of leaving you with just tidbits of information, here are some worthwhile articles to read about the situation:

"We're not prepared to have another season under this collective bargaining agreement," [NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman] said. "So we need a new collective bargaining agreement, and that's what we're focused on doing."

--NHL labor talks: Chasm presents itself-and lockout fears mount [The Sporting News]

The owners' initial proposal, made on July 13, would cut the players' split of league revenue from 57 percent to as low as 43 percent. It would also limit contract lengths, extend entry-level contracts from three to five years, make players ineligible to become restricted free agents until 10 years of service rather than the current seven, and eliminate salary arbitration.

--N.H.L. Negotiations Take a Tense Turn [Slap Shot Blog, New York Times]

[NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr] has already proposed having talks continue beyond the deadline and having the season open without disruption under the current system.

[NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly] declined to discuss the NHL's plans if an agreement is not reached by mid-September.

"We will deal with the Players' Association on the issue of 'what then?' if we don't (reach a deal)," Daly wrote in an email. "Not prepared to debate that point publicly right now."

--Both sides say deal can get done [ESPN]

The players now receive a 57% share of hockey-related revenues, yet the owners' initial offer would drop it to 46. Former Red Wings great Ted Lindsay said it's "understandable" the league is asking for rollbacks. After all, the players signed a quality deal with a quality percentage back in 2005. Now - some think - it's the owners turn.

"Certainly they have a right to ask for anything they want, but if the players had any brains, they wouldn't accept it," Lindsay said. "But you have to start somewhere."

Lindsay found it contradictory for the owners to cry "poor-mouth" at a time when record deals are being signed in a league with record revenue in excess of $3.1 billion. Defenseman Shea Weber, for instance, got a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators eventually matched it.

Lindsay said the owners are off base.

"They have to sell this game," he said. "Not destroy it."

--Lots of talk, little action on NHL labor front [Detroit Free Press]

The NHLPA's counter-proposal is likely to dictate the immediate direction of talks, especially since the league's pitch called for numerous concessions from players. The 24 per cent rollback in salary would represent a collective reduction of $450 million from last season while such items as the elimination of salary arbitration and contract limits of five years have also been put on the table.

After a recent negotiating session, Fehr indicated players were "not enamoured" with what was being proposed. Among the items the NHLPA is expected to seek in a new agreement is an expanded revenue sharing system between teams and changes that could make the salary cap more flexible.

However, Fehr wanted to consult as many union members as possible before responding to the NHL's initial proposal. It's made for a busy travel schedule in the middle of talks.

--Fehr Says Sufficient Time for CBA Deal, Commitment Essential [TSN]