On Wednesday afternoon, most of the Bruins players were traveling by train to New York.
At approximately the same time, their employer was participating in drafting the NHL’s latest proposal to prevent a lockout.
Owner Jeremy Jacobs was part of an exclusive NHL negotiating committee that helped commissioner Gary Bettman assemble a proposal for a six-year collective bargaining agreement. Murray Edwards, who owns the Calgary Flames, was the only other owner involved.
“We’ve been clear about this, certainly to the union, going back to November,” Bettman told reporters in New York. “We’re not prepared to open without a new deal.”
According to NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr, the NHL’s latest proposal would grant players 49 percent of hockey-related revenue in the first year. By the term’s sixth and final year, the players would receive 47 percent.
The NHL had previously offered a proposal in which players would receive 46 percent of HRR in the first year. In its initial proposal in July, the NHL designated player share at 43 percent. The players currently receive 57 percent of HRR, a percentage they are loath to cede.
If the NHLPA declines the NHL’s proposal before the current CBA’s expiration at midnight Saturday, the league will withdraw the offer.
“With every day, we continue to experience damage to the game and the business of the game,” Bettman said. “What we’re trying to do now is stem that damage.
“What we would be prepared to do now to make a deal before there is extensive damage is not the same that we’ll be prepared to do when we get to the point where we’ve suffered damage.”
The proposal was in response to an offer made by the NHLPA during Wednesday’s bargaining session. Fehr, special counsel Steve Fehr, and several members of the NHLPA’s negotiating committee attended the meeting. Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, a Marblehead native and former Boston College netminder, was one of the seven players present.
According to Bettman, the NHLPA’s proposal offered little the owners would prefer.
“The proposal was really not much different, other than a couple things around the edges, than the last proposal they had made,” said Bettman. “Which we had indicated was clearly not acceptable.”
The players are adamant in not accepting salary rollbacks. They have cited the 24 percent cut they received following the 2004-05 lockout. Their proposal, a four-year term, centers around slowing salary growth and participating in revenue sharing.
Don Fehr did not offer any details on the NHLPA’s proposal other than to note its foundation had not changed from previous iterations.
“I’m not going to categorize our proposal further except to say that our proposal was made with the same principles we have always had in mind,” Fehr said. “Those are that we didn’t see any reason, given seven years of record revenue growth and the enormous concessions the players made the last time, to have an absolute reduction in player salaries.
“They are prepared to have their share fall over time as revenues grow. They hope to partner with large-revenue teams in terms of providing whatever assistance to franchises may be called for, generally under the rubric of revenue sharing.”
Wednesday’s session, according to Bettman, did not include any discussions regarding peripheral issues such as length of contracts, arbitration rights, or service time required for unrestricted free agency.
On Wednesday night, Fehr briefed the players at a New York hotel. Further meetings between the players and the NHLPA are scheduled for Thursday. The NHL’s Board of Governors is also scheduled to meet Thursday. No formal bargaining sessions have been scheduled before the CBA is due to expire. However, both Bettman and Fehr said talks could continue until then.
If a lockout takes place, it’s unlikely that training camp will begin on time. The Bruins are scheduled to open camp Sept. 21; their season opener is Oct. 11 against Philadelphia.
With the start of camp in danger, the Bruins took advantage of the NHL’s expanded waiver period. On Wednesday, they placed Garnet Exelby, Christian Hanson, Jamie Tardif, and Trent Whitfield on waivers. Assuming the players clear, they will be assigned to Providence prior to the CBA’s expiration. Providence opens camp Sept. 28.
All four are signed to two-way contracts. They were long shots to open the regular season on the varsity roster.
But in the event of a standard training camp, the four players would have most likely dressed for several preseason games prior to AHL assignment. The uncertainty regarding the preseason and regular season accelerated their assignment.
The Bruins may have more business to address prior to the CBA’s expiration. In a five-day span, they re-signed Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin.
Both would have been restricted free agents following 2012-13. Milan Lucic is also scheduled to reach RFA status after 2012-13. General manager Peter Chiarelli and Gerry Johansson, Lucic’s agent, declined to comment regarding a similar extension.
No transactions are expected to be allowed during a lockout.