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EXCLUSIVE: Donald Fehr’s post-meeting memo to players — “There is still a lot of work to be done”

Nov 9, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

Donald Fehr: Sidney Crosby AP

PHT has obtained a copy of NHLPA boss Donald Fehr’s memo to union members following Thursday’s CBA meetings in New York.

The letter, obtained from an NHL player, suggests the union is displeased with the league’s latest offerings.

In addition to the ongoing issues of revenue sharing and the league’s “Make Whole” idea, the NHLPA has concerns about the NHL’s stance on contract length, unrestricted free agent eligibility and arbitration processes — issues that “significantly reduce a player’s bargaining power and give the owner much more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career.”

Here is Fehr’s letter, in full:

Today, we met with the NHL off and on over several hours.  A number of matters were discussed, including our proposal for a new pension plan, revenue sharing, the players’ share and salary cap issues, and the owners’ “make whole” concept.  Present today were Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Manny Malhotra, and Kevin Westgarth (David Backes was present for part of the day), as well as Mathieu Schneider, Joe Reekie, Steve Webb and Rob Zamuner.   

No new proposals were exchanged on pension issues, but we will discuss this issue again tomorrow (Friday). We did receive a proposal on revenue sharing in response to the proposal we made this week, but this subject still needs considerable work. 

In addition, we received a revamped proposal covering players’ share and cap issues, their so-called “make whole”, and player contracting issues.  The owners finally did formally give us their “make whole” idea, which in dollar terms is similar to the discussions Bill Daly had with Steve Fehr a few days ago.  While a step forward, a significant gap remains.  Moreover, at the same time we were told that the owners want an “immediate reset” to 50/50 (which would significantly reduce the salary cap) and that their proposals to restrict crucial individual contracting rights must be agreed to.  As you know, these include – among other things – losing a year of salary arbitration eligibility, allowing the team to file for salary arbitration in any year that the player can file, extending UFA eligibility to age 28 or 8 seasons, limiting contracts to 5 years, and permitting only 5% year to year variability in player contracts.   Individually each is bad for players; taken together they would significantly reduce a player’s bargaining power and give the owner much more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career.   

In short, the concessions on future salary we have offered (at least $948 Million to $1.25 Billion over five years, depending on HRR growth) are not enough.  We are still being told that more salaries must be conceded, and that very valuable player contracting rights must be surrendered.  So, while we are meeting again, and while some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made. 

We will review today’s discussions over night and tomorrow morning before meeting again with the owners. Following our meeting tomorrow with the league, we will be able to provide a broader update.

As always, please contact us if you have any questions or comments.

Best regards.

Don

Despite the letter’s somewhat pessimistic tone, there are signs for optimism.

Talks have yet to break off — the NHLPA and NHL have met for over 17 hours over the last three days — and the two sides will enter their fourth consecutive day of negotiations on Friday, which were set to begin at 10 a.m. ET in New York.

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