On Causeway Street, the mantra remains “business as usual.” The Bruins are planning to open training camp Sept. 21. They are negotiating with Tyler Seguin on a long-term extension, one that could be finalized next week. The front office has devised several scenarios to become cap-compliant (the Bruins have approximately $67 million committed to 2012-13, including Tim Thomas and Marc Savard) if the ceiling decreases under the next collective bargaining agreement.
Business, however, projects to be anything but usual.
The first consequences of labor unrest have already taken hold. The Bruins were scheduled to participate in a rookie tournament next Friday in Florida with the Panthers, Lightning, and Predators. That tournament has been canceled. The Bruins will not hold a rookie camp locally.
Next week’s New York City media tour has been scrubbed. Thomas, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron were previous participants.
Prior to camp, Bruins players regularly held informal skates at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. None are scheduled.
On Sept. 15, the current CBA will expire. If there is no new deal upon that expiration, the NHL will initiate a lockout.
The start of camp is in doubt. Nobody can determine whether the Bruins will visit the Flyers Oct. 11 to kick off the regular season. The last lockout resulted in the dark 2004-05 season.
“We all want to see hockey being played,” said Bruins president Cam Neely. “We’re preparing as we would normally for main camp to open up until we hear otherwise.
“Having said that, we know what the alternative could be. We have to prepare for that as well. We really don’t know until we know, so to speak.”
The NHL and the NHL Players Association have not bargained since last Friday in New York. After a 90-minute session, they ended talks. They cannot even agree on which side initiated the recess that remains in place.
“The owners elected to recess,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told reporters after the session.
“To suggest that we recessed or called off negotiations when they didn’t even make a counterproposal to our proposal on [Aug. 28] is an unfair and inaccurate characterization,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman responded.
The NHL and NHLPA agree that the salary cap should remain in place. That stands in contrast to 2004-05, when players held out against the cap.
The current disagreement centers on player salaries. Players receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenue. The NHL believes that is too high. The league has referred to agreements in the NFL and NBA, where player revenue shares are closer to 50 percent.
“We think 57 percent of HRR is more than we need to pay,” Bettman said.
In its first offer, the league pegged player salaries at 43 percent of HRR. In its second proposal, the NHL increased it to 46 percent — a figure, Bettman noted, that shifted $460 million toward the players.
Under the second proposal, the cap would decrease to $58 million. Maneuvers for the Bruins to get under that could include placing Savard on long-term injured reserve and trading Thomas.
“We’ve locked up our core guys,” said general manager Peter Chiarelli. “If I have to do something to get to a lower cap number, I feel I can do that quite easily.
“I don’t want to trade any of our top players. My point is that we’re business as usual, with the caveat that I feel we have some flexibility.”
After the 2004-05 lockout, salaries were rolled back by 24 percent. Under the NHL’s second proposal, players would not be subject to contract rollbacks. However, players would be responsible for escrow payments. Bettman estimated escrow to be around 12-13 percent.
In response, the players are wary of accepting a figure lower than 57 percent. In their only proposal thus far, the players proposed to slow future revenue growth for a three-year term. They proposed to direct funds (between $100 million-$125 million) toward revenue sharing. The NHLPA believes it can play a part in bolstering small-market franchises such as Phoenix, Florida, and Dallas. The union also wants wealthier organizations such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto to participate in revenue sharing.
“It’s understandable that some of the wealthier owners don’t necessarily want to put their hard-earned money toward another team,” said Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider, a Marblehead native and a member of the NHLPA negotiating committee. “However, for them to say the owners unanimously dismissed it, we think there are a lot of small-market teams that would really benefit from that plan and really like that plan.Continued...