As the NHL moves closer and closer to the edge of disaster, the points of difference in CBA negotiations have come down to just a few key issues -- the length of the CBA, limiting the length of standard player contracts and transition rules.
The NHL has said that there's no room left to move for them.
"The problem is, those are big issues for us," said Oilers forward Shawn Horcoff, who was a part of negotiations in New York.
That's the complication.
The issue that has received the most attention is the term limits on individual contracts. The players have spent the last few days since Thursday's negotiation implosion articulating why an issue that seems to affect so few of the constituency actually matters to all of them.
The fight has become about protecting the middle class with the suggestion from the players that term limits will lead to bigger salary cap hits for the stars and less money left over for the middle class. It's not a theory shared by the league.
"Squeezing the 'mid-level player' argument is one we heard for the first time last week," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail this morning. "It's much more of a 'This is why we don't want to agree' rationalization, than it is a proven, cogent argument."
As it stands right now, the NHL is proposing five-year contract limits on signing a player from another team and seven-year contract limits on re-signing your own player (with a five percent variance limit). The players last offered an eight-year limit on contracts with a 25 percent variance.
"We're not talking about a huge discrepancy here," said Chicago forward Jamal Mayers, another player who took part in the New York negotiations last week. "They're at five and seven. We're at eight. Does anybody else see that?"
If only there was some number in between those two ...
"Consider who has done all the movement," Mayers said, shooting down compromise. "Why should we keep moving toward them?"
And so, we're at another stalemate in negotiations. To understand this issue, it's important to have a clear sense as to why it's so important from both sides. As one player wondered this weekend, wouldn't teams and owners want to sign their best players for longer than seven years?
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