July 17, 2012

Fischler Report: NHL's CBA negotiations cause for panic?

By Stan Fischler

Now that Gary Bettman has presented the NHL's requests --some would call it "demands" -- for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, several media types have both hit the ceiling and their keyboards. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Getty Images)

Not surprisingly, the usual pro-union suspects are crying "lockout" if not wolf and it makes one wonder whether such panic pieces are realistic. For a reasonable answer we turn to a level-headed, veteran analyst -- Bob McKenzie of TSN:

“There’s going to be a lot of ‘the sky is falling’ forecasts, and maybe it will, but I'll wait until September to put on my hard hat.”

No less worthy of analysis is the following commentary from ESPN’s Scott Burnside.

What matters is that Burnside's CBA X-ray was written for NHL.com. That means Scott's sortie had to have been at least in part sanctioned by the league and, assuming that's the case, it suggests a more realistic route for the negotiations.

Either way, make your own judgment:

Should anyone be up in arms over the league's outline of a proposal that was long on demands but short on details?  The simple answer is no.

Should anyone be surprised that the league asked for the players to take 46 percent of hockey-related revenues in a new agreement, down from their current share of 57 percent?  No.

Or that the league's proposal suggested players would have to wait 10 seasons before qualifying for free agency, up from the current seven?  No.

Or that the league wants to extend entry-level contracts in some form from the current three years to five years?  No.

Or that contracts carry a term no greater than five years and that all caphits be the same for the life of the contract? No.

None of this should come as any surprise to anyone familiar with how these things play out, and multiple sources told ESPN.com Saturday that this type of proposal was entirely expected, even if the final agreement will likely bear little resemblance to this initial volley.

If the two sides can agree on the agenda and the logistics for further meetings, they are then expected to discuss the proposal and the league's justification for its demands at meetings in New York.

Would it be a great story for the league and its players to tell if they hammer out a new deal long before camps or games are canceled? Could there be a better springboard to training camp and the 2012-13 season than by charting a course to labor peace that other higher profile sports could not find?

Sure. But we're nowhere near that now.

Will Burnside’s prediction come to fruition, or, as McKenzie suggests, is this attitude of doom and gloom too preemptive? You decide!

OBSERVATIONS

* LOU LAMORIELLO, MIKE MODANO, and ED OLCZYK deservedly have been named the newest entrants into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Among their other noteworthy contributions has been the fact that the rapid development of top-flight hockey players in America is because of their assorted efforts. Uncle Sam as a stickhandling power has never been stronger, and for that we can thank Lou, Mike, and Ed.

* TEEMU SELANNE's decision to sign on for another Anaheim season is heartening news. The future Hall of Famer has been nothing but a scoring machine. More importantly, he's been a marvelous salesman for the NHL and, more recently, the Ducks franchise. Now we have to start hoping that Tim Thomas reconsiders his temporary retirement and returns to action -- where he belongs; Boston or otherwise.

GOSSIP

Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash remains on the trading block. (Getty Images)

The Rick Nash Derby could very well conclude with the large scorer remaining in ColumbusFurthermore, the Blue Jackets’ captain knows this—he’s been told in no uncertain terms—and will have to adjust if necessary. … Nash understands that his boss, GM Scott Howsonmust get a big return on his investment. Nash is Columbus’ only asset and the GM cannot afford to be wrong. Other potential trade partners are aware that Columbus has to get value or, as one exec says, “the Blue Jackets are doomed!” …

By limiting the teams to which he’ll agree to be traded, Nash has made Howson’s job even more challenging. …

So, what kind of exchange will work for Columbus? Definitely not draft choices. Other reports erroneously state that Howson wants only two forwards; fact is, he wants three good ones. …

While cheery homilies are being transmitted by both the NHL and NHLPA PR machines, nothing substantive has been accomplished in the labor-management meetings so far in terms of producing a new collective bargaining agreement. The union has brought up such minor issues as equipment, arena ice quality, and the selection of team doctors. What everyone should know is that all of the above—and just about any other issues—are small potatoes compared to the only major issue that counts. What makes the players’ concerns so fatuous is the fact that the teams employ the best doctors, the clubs fly in their own planes, they stay at the best hotels, and working conditions up and down the line are first-class.Additionally, right now the players get 57 percent of the money pie, and the owners want to reduce that inequitable ratio. …

While all eyes remain focused on the Coyotes’ fate, two issues remain unresolved: 1. Whether or not opponents will succeed in blocking the sale of the team to Greg Jamison; 2. Whether Jamison will be able to come up with the estimated selling price of $170 million. Whatever happens, the Coyotes will be playing in Phoenix next season.

MORE GOSSIP

After losing out on Zach Parise, Pittsburgh's top free-agent target may be Shane Doan. (Getty Images)

Despite reports that the Stars are looking to trade captain Brendan Morrow, GM Joe Nieuwendyk said that he expects Morrow to be a big partof the club’s success next season. ... 

The Penguins are looking for a top-six forward to play alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Two unrestricted free agents who could fit that role are Shane Doan and Alexander Semin. … 

Bobby Ryan is mentioned as trade bait, and the Flyers, Maple Leafs, and Penguins are reportedly among the teams interested in acquiring the Ducks’ winger. According to Randy Miller of the Camden, N.J., Courier-Post, Ryan feels that Philadelphia would be an ideal choice for him. …

The Maple Leafs and Red Wings held a press conference in Detroit to officially announce that the 2013 Winter Classic will be held on January 1st. … 

Eric Staal has been happy with what the Hurricanes have done this summer. Staal told Luke DeCock of the Charlotte News &Observer that “just the fact that we’re even in the mix, that we threw offers out there to these elite guys, is exciting.” Of course, the biggest move Carolina has made so far was acquiring Eric’s brother Jordan. …

Although Nicklas Lidstrom is staying with the Red Wings organization as a scout, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner still plans to move with his family back to Sweden. Lidstrom’s home in southeast Michigan sold for $2.9 million. …

The Sabres will honor the “French Connection” line of left wing Rick Martin, center Gilbert Perreault, and right wing Rene Robert with a statue outside First Niagara Center. All three members of the line have had their numbers retired by the Sabres’ organization.

GOSSIP III

Does Las Vegas have a chance at getting into the NHL? The Las Vegas Sun reports a building proposal of a 20,000 seat arena to be home for a new NBA/NHL team. Las Vegas resident and Hollywood filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer has had ownership aspirations and could step up to take charge of a Sin City NHL franchise. The odds are 75-25 against. …

The Sabres signed 2012 1st round pick Zemgus Girgensons to an entry-level contract. Though Girgensons is expected to start the season in the AHL, our man in Buffalo, Dave Ricci, “wouldn't be completely shocked if he made the [Big Club] out of camp.” … 

While some may regard John Tortorella (Melrose, Mass.) as intimidating, players appreciate his gung-ho style. And if you don’t believe it, ask the latest Ranger Jeff Halpern. “I love the style of play as far as being a real aggressive forechecking team," Halpern told The Record’s Andrew Gross. "I enjoyed playing it when I played for Torts in Tampa." … 

The AHL has named Mike Lappan, director of public and media relations for the Charlotte Checkers, winner of the Ken McKenzie Award for the 2011-12 season. The award is presented annually to an AHL team executive who is most successful in promoting his or her club. …

NHL All-Star and U.S. Olympian Mathieu Schneider has been appointed director of Team USA for the 2013 Maccabiah games in Israel. Schneider is the NHL’s all-time leading Jewish scorer. He currently serves as special assistant to NHLPA Executive Director, Donald Fehr.

Follow Stan Fischler on Twitter at @StanFischler.