What they aren't discussing: a new proposal from the NHLPA, which the League has said it's waiting on to further the vital discussions about hockey-related revenue and other issues driving the lockout.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, as plugged in as they come, believes there's a way to goose a new proposal out of Donald Fehr and the NHLPA. But it will require the NHL making some concessions:
My belief is that in order for the NHL to get that new proposal from the NHLPA that it is so craving, the league is going to have to show compromises as well, specifically in the area of individual player contracts.
The league has never officially taken off the table its list of desired changes to player contracts from its initial proposal, such as extending the entry-level contract system from three years to five years, the elimination of salary arbitration, moving the eligibility age for unrestricted free agency to 10 years of NHL service (it's now seven years of pro) and the crackdown on back-diving contracts (front-loaded cheat deals). Of those demands, the back-diving contracts is by far, in my mind, the most important demand from the league and I don't think that one ever comes off the table.
LeBrun thinks the NHL would be willing to drop some of those other conditions from its initial proposals. But wasn't that always our assumption?
(Granted, one assumes the owners might force the issue on those rookie deals, if only because the vast majority of them loathe the overvaluing of "second contracts".)
You put something like the abolition of salary arbitration on the table to concede it. Any serious move to curtail it would lead exactly where everyone believes a serious discussion on the salary cap would lead, which is 24 months without an NHL. Fehr and the players would never go for it.
So when will the NHL drop it?
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- Donald Fehr