And so it was late on Friday night that word of the league's first offer to the NHL Players' Association was handed down and was, shall we say, not particularly favorable.
Among the list of things the league presented to the NHLPA, knowing that not one would be accepted, was a significant rollback of the share of hockey-related revenue from the current 57 percent to just 46 percent; no more salary arbitration; a period of 10 years before a player reaches free agency; a five-year limit on contracts; and entry-level deals lasting five years instead of three.
All were likely to be viewed as non-starters for the PA, and understandably so. These demands are insane. Of course they are. It's not yet clear whether the apocalyptic language surrounding these revelations — Larry Brooks, who was out in front of these details, called it a "Declaration of War … in the guise of a first proposal" and Adam Proteau began furiously railing against the owners — is well-founded.
As Harrison Mooney said Friday night, were there a line in the sand to which the owners planned to defend to the last, then that would certainly be cause for concern. But let's keep in mind, this being a negotiation — and indeed, the first offer in one — there is by definition going to have to be some give and take from both sides.
Should you officially be more worried about this deal getting done before the season is scheduled to start than you were, say, a week ago? Probably.
This kind of hypocrisy from the league is hardly anything new — see also: Minnesota's contracts for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, months after its owner cried about the inherent unfairness of big, long-term deals — and all attempts will be made to wrest whatever money it can from the players' pockets going forward.
But that's also the owners' job in this.
(Coming Up: Teemu-mania, running wild; Shane Doan is the canary in a coal mine; Rangers ante Derek Stepan for Rick Nash; Hurricanes push for Bobby Ryan; Malcolm Subban sucks up to Boston fans; replacing Jarome Iginla; Avs re-up Jamie McGinn; Dustin Penner was rather injured this season; and Jonathan Bernier to the Leafs?)
The salary cap has nearly doubled from the $39 million at which it stood in 2005-06, and owners are making more money than they ever have. The players — the thing people are actually paying to see when they go to the rink and tune in on the NBC Sports Network — think they should get more money. The owners — the guys cutting the checks and more or less ensuring the league exists — think they should get more money.
None of this should be in any way surprising.
We can all agree that the NHLPA got absolutely clubbed in the last round of CBA negotiations, all but bending over backwards to accept whatever the owners offer as long as they could get paid something in exchange for playing hockey. The owners got a great deal, and, as the memories of the long, cold winter without the NHL faded, hockey got way more popular, and everyone benefited.
I guess it should be surprising, just given who's in charge of both sides of this argument, that it's Gary Bettman who comes off as the unreasonably staunch one, given that Donald Fehr's hiring in 2010 prompted many hockey fans with a knowledge of the 1994 baseball strike to start chewing their finger nails like cartoon characters eat corn on the cob. But then, we don't know how hard-line a proposal from the NHLPA would have been. It likely would not have been as radical, of course, which shows that the owners think they're getting screwed by the current system.
They're not. The CBA, as it currently stands, is probably working better than any professional league's in terms of getting both sides paid. Everyone is doing great.
Was this ownership proposal galling? Sure. But it was also presented on, or a few days, before July 13.
Let's not forget that much of this information came from Brooks (and also RDS's Renaud Lavoie), who is about as staunchly and vocally pro-player as you can be; and therefore, the incendiary language should be seen as intentionally so. It's no coincidence that a sympathetic voice got this information, and then started throwing around sentences like, "Curt Flood would roll over in his grave." It's negotiating in public, and it's a perfectly acceptable tactic for getting people over to your side. Everyone's saying, "Look at these greedy owners," and that's by design.
Based on that offer, they're not wrong to do it either. But all I'm saying is, we're barely halfway through July. All we know is these scant, albeit insulting and preposterous, details. So let's just step back and acknowledge that we have a long, long way to go before training camp is even affected by these negotiations. If Bob McKenzie is preaching patience, that seems like a reasonable way to approach things.
Maybe things get worse. Maybe they don't. It's not a war yet, in any case. Let's blow up the bridge on the River Kwai when we come to it.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks officially locked up Hampus Lindholm with a standard three-year entry-level deal. They picked him up with their sixth-overall pick in last month's draft, and now he's really lucky because he's going to get to meet Teemu Selanne. Whoa.
Boston Bruins: Malcolm Subban is trying hard to get on Boston fans' good side, by purchasing a Red Sox hat earlier this week. If he knew anything about this town, though, he would know everyone pretty much hates the Sox right now.
Buffalo Sabres: Much like the Ducks, the Sabres recently signed their own first-round pick, 18-year-old Zemgus Girgensons. He was set to be a freshman at the University of Vermont and will instead not be, largely because, unlike most 18-year-olds he is currently eligible to play in the AHL, where the Sabres would prefer he get ice time against men.
Carolina Hurricanes: After deciding they wanted no part of the Rick Nash asking price, I guess it's no surprise that the Hurricanes are going hard for Bobby Ryan, even if nothing is expected to happen anytime soon.
Chicago Blackhawks: Both Teuvo Teravainen and Brandon Saad seem like they might be closer to the NHL than anyone might have given them credit for in the past. Both have straight-up pushed around the competition at Blackhawks development camp. The Finn will stay in his native country next season regardless, but Saad looks very close to a full-time big-league gig.
Colorado Avalanche: Jamie McGinn will be back with the Avs next season after re-upping on Friday. He might have been the quietest 20-goal scorer in the league last season. It's a nice bit of business by Greg Sherman, that's for sure. McGinn had the same number of points as other Avs re-signee David Jones, who got four years at $4 million per.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Scott Howson, not content to have two mediocre-at-best goaltenders, are also in talks to acquire Jonathan Bernier, who is unproven and wasn't great for the Kings as a backup last season. Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason, you're on notice.
Dallas Stars: Double-bad news -- This guy thinks the Stars haven't done enough to attract fan interest, and Joe Nieuwendyk likes Nickelback. Gross.
Edmonton Oilers: Darryl Katz says he's not asking for anything in the new Edmonton arena deal. Except for taxpayers to front most of the bill, which is now larger than originally planned. Oh and if they don't he's threatening to move the team. "If they don't want a new arena, don't build a new arena. It's up to them. I'm offering to step in. To the extent that no other owner has," Katz said. What a guy.
Florida Panthers: Legit question: Now that the Panthers have locked up Peter Mueller (ostensibly to replace Wojtek Wolski — and who hasn't heard that story before?), are they done this offseason?
Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Penner on the injuries he suffered during the regular season: "I would tell my centerman that I couldn't shoot the puck so don't pass it to me. It was one of those intermittent things. It would come and go." Oh jeez that's bad; he probably shouldn't have been playing then.
Minnesota Wild: Are the Wild the team to beat in the West? Haha, of course not. Maybe they wanna work on becoming the team to beat in their division first.
Montreal Canadiens: Now that Raphael Diaz is locked up on a two-year, one-way deal, one assumes the Habs focus everything on re-signing PK Subban long-term. That one's gonna be expensive.
Nashville Predators: The Predators are apparently holding a fan vote for the team's slogan next season. Currently the top vote-getters are assumedly "Damn you Ryan Suter," and "Oh God please Shea don't you go too."
New Jersey Devils: Newark mayor Corey Booker is under fire for spending $3.7 million in a legal battle with the Devils, and that could cost the city $24 million in state aid this year. Man, they could've used that to re-sign Zach Parise.
New York Islanders: Have the Islanders made any ground in becoming better within the context of competing in the division? Considering they finished 30 points back of first and 24 back of fourth, nope.
Ottawa Senators: The Sens are looking to add more toughness. Every game in the Northeast is gonna be a war this season.
Phoenix Coyotes: This guy thinks that if Shane Doan leaves, the entire Coyotes franchise will likely be facing the beginning of the end. All hockey fans, on the other hand, the situation really doesn't hinge on Shane Doan staying or going at all.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins are liking the look of their prospect pool, based on the quality of players that came to the team's development camp. Anton Zlobin, though, likely didn't win any fans in Pittsburgh by saying his favorite Russian player is Alex Ovechkin.
San Jose Sharks: Sharks first-round draftee Tomas Hertl won't come to North America to ply his trade this season, instead returning to his native Czech Republic. But don't worry, Sharks fans, after that he will be either playing in the AHL or NHL.
St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo is still trying to improve his game, which, if he succeeds, is bad news for the rest of the Western Conference.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Bolts players are loving the team's acquisitions, and the team seems to have wrapped up any roster tinkering for the summer. Still not sure about that defense, honestly.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Could the Leafs have a look at Jonathan Bernier? Sure. They should be having a look at just about every goaltender in the league. (And just to touch on the thing that led off that column, even though it's not related to the Maple Leafs: Hey Mike Modano, no one wants to see you play NHL hockey anymore. No one. Stop this. It's pathetic.)
Vancouver Canucks: I don't know why it's news that Roberto Luongo told someone at the World Series of Poker that he "might be" on the Panthers next year. Like, we can all agree that's a thing we very much know already, right?
Washington Capitals: No-brainer signing: The Caps locked up Filip Forsberg with an entry-level deal. I still can't believe he fell to them. Doesn't make any sense.
Winnipeg Jets: I don't know why it always takes a really decent player like Kyle Wellwood so long to sign every offseason, but here we are. Only took two weeks this time.
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