The NHL and the NHLPA will continue meeting on Wednesday morning, with the players expected to come back with a new proposal. The first hurdles are the core economic issues involving their respective shares of the league's revenue; after that, they get to contract fun.
There's no question that the NHL will ask for, and likely receive, restrictions on rookie and second-year contracts in the next CBA. The NHL wants a two-year entry-level term; Gary Bettman doesn't want to see rookie bonuses count against the salary cap, allowing teams to reach the salary cap floor with money that might never be paid out.
The NHLPA would be wise to propose an entry-level system that eliminates bonuses and would thus open up cap space for veterans and reduce entry-level players' impact on escrow.
The Oilers, for example, have five players on entry level deals — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz — whose 2012-13 base salaries amount to $4,462,500 but whose cap hits, including bonuses, equal $16.233 million. Eliminating entry-level bonuses would thus open over $11.77 million in cap space for the Oilers. Finding ways to open cap space is a fundamental requirement for the union if operating under a system in which veterans on the market will be squeezed under a lower ceiling.
Common sense solution; and, incredibly, some potential common ground for both sides.