Talks between the NHL and NHLPA aimed at negotiating a new CBA stalled Friday when the Union declared that it was unwilling to discuss the reset of current player compensation that the League considers essential for a new agreement.
There are no further bargaining sessions scheduled at this point, but both sides said Friday they would be willing to resume the negotiations at any point.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Sept. 15.
"What I thought was starting as a promising week after we made our substantial counterproposal on Tuesday ends, I guess you can say, in disappointment," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We did not get a proposal from the Union; call it more of a response and the response basically was, as it relates to the economic issues, 'We're not going to reset. Anything we're prepared to do only comes out of future revenues and thatís our position.' So there was no counterproposal or new proposal.
"We said that in light of where they are, we have nothing to propose," the Commissioner later added. "Obviously, we're not going to be in a position to bid against ourselves. And, we both agreed that when either of us has something to say, we'll pick up the phone. But in light of the fact that they were unwilling to move forward on the economics, there wasn't much else to discuss."
The counterproposal presented Tuesday by the NHL represented a $460 million improvement over the life of the proposed new agreement, as compared to the League's initial offer of July 13.
Commissioner Bettman said the League favors a longer-term deal in order to gain labor stability.
The Union's initial proposal on Aug. 14 included a players' option for a fourth year that would see their share of hockey-related revenues "snap back" to 57 percent.
Fehr said the owners objected to the terms of the players' option in the fourth year as proposed in the original Union offer, so the players attempted to address the fourth year in the response Friday by suggesting several concepts that would allow for the players' share in that fourth year to be less than 57 percent. Fehr said the Union felt solving the issues of the fourth year would allow the sides to move toward bridging the economic gaps that remain.
"The response that was made to us is that if the players are not prepared to agree to an immediate reset in their aggregate salary levels, that is to say, as we understand it, a meaningful, absolute reduction in the players' share in dollar terms for next year as compared to last year, that they see no point in discussing or responding to the proposals that we put forward at the meeting today," Fehr said.
"At this point, the talks are recessed and we will not be discussing these issues again unless and until there's an indication from the NHL that they are prepared to do so," Fehr later added. "Hopefully that will come soon."
Both sides still believe there is enough time to make a deal by Sept. 15.
"Once we get past Sept. 15, I think the dynamic changes," Commissioner Bettman said. "The damage to the business changes the dynamic of the negotiation. So, from our standpoint, we're hoping to make a deal by Sept. 15. That's how we've positioned the offers we've made. And I'm hopeful that it can still be done. There is enough time if there is a willingness to negotiate.
"The players are looking for lots of things, which I think with the right economics we would be more than prepared to do to make their life as good, even better than it is now," Commissioner Bettman added, "but we're not in the position until we know the economics -- certainly in light of the fact that we in effect got stonewalled today -- to be moving forward on other things."