Optimism grows for NHL settlement
BY ALAN HAHN
July 8, 2005
Even as denials came fast and furious from the NHL and the Players
Association that they had completed a deal in principle for a new
collective-bargaining agreement. a heightened sense of anticipation
permeated the league yesterday.
There is little doubt the complicated and exhausting negotiation is
almost over. According to a person with knowledge of the situation,
the tentative agreement will be presented to the NHL Executive
Committee on Monday and then perhaps to the Board of Governors for
approval as early as Tuesday. If the board approves it, it will be
presented to the players for a ratification vote.
After almost 10 full months mired in a lockout that resulted in the
unprecedented cancellation of the 2004-05 season, hockey is on its
way back from oblivion. But the NHL is being extra careful not to
make a premature announcement.
"I don't have any information, but the sense I get from everybody is
they're making considerable progress," Islanders general manager Mike
Milbury said yesterday from his office at Nassau Coliseum. "It's safe
to say it's going to get done in the near future."
A Los Angeles Times report yesterday cited sources saying an
agreement in principle had been reached. The report outlined a deal
that included a $37- million salary cap based on 54 percent of league
revenue, with a $24-million base and no luxury tax.
Before noon yesterday, the NHL already had shot down the report, with
spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur saying it was "simply not true." Two
sources within the negotiating teams also denied that talks are
over. "The document is far from done," one person said.
The Times report suggested there could be one sticking point
remaining, and that is the union pushing to have all 2004-05
contracts rolled over into 2005-06. But multiple persons with
knowledge of the situation on both sides of the table say the issue
has long been resolved. The union already has agreed the 2004-05
contracts were lost as a result of the canceled season.
The Times story reported what has been widely speculated to be the
framework of a new CBA. Along with the cap system, the Times said the
agreement will include a 24-percent rollback on existing contracts
and qualifying offers to restricted free agents, baseball-style
arbitration, revenue sharing by the top 10 revenue-earning teams with
the small-market teams and a rule that limits the salary of any
single player on a team to 20 percent of the cap figure.
Also, the league will not have an All-Star Game in 2005-06 and
instead will take an 18-day break to participate in the Winter
Olympics in Turin, Italy.
The union has given players very little information, but at least one
is optimistic. "I'm happy and excited to put this all behind,"
Islanders forward Mark Parrish said, "and get back to winning a
Stanley Cup with the Islanders."