The NHL ended 2012 still in lockout mode, but negotiations between the league and the players’ association were expected to continue Tuesday in New York for a second straight day. After the sides met Monday, Commissioner Gary Bettman affirmed Jan. 19 as the start for a schedule of no fewer than 48 games if a collective bargaining agreement can be reached in time.
A delegation of players and NHLPA executives went to the league’s Manhattan offices with their response to a nearly 300-page proposal the league made Thursday. Bettman called the union’s response “a comprehensive one,” and said NHL negotiators would analyze it Monday evening.
“We’re anticipating getting back together” on Tuesday, Bettman told reporters outside his office, his voice nearly drowned out by the sounds of horns and pre-New Year’s Eve revelry.
“This was an opportunity for the players’ association to highlight the areas that they thought we should focus on based on their response, and that’s something that we’ve now got to look at closely, in addition to the myriad of other issues.”
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said his group would remain in New York to resume talks Tuesday. He also said the union had made some movement toward the league’s position but did not specify the nature of that movement.
Fehr declined to say whether he believes the sides found more common ground Monday. “The purpose of the discussion was for us to respond and for them to ask a couple of questions and for us to explain a number of points we made,” he said.
The NHL’s last proposal bent toward the players’ stance in such areas as contract lengths (six years, with a seven-year exception for teams re-signing free agents) and establishing a maximum year-to-year variance within a contract at 10%, up from 5%. However, players contend the NHL’s proposed $60-million salary cap for 2013-14 is too low and they want a limit on escrow payments. Players have also opposed the NHL’s proposed 10-year term for the new labor deal, instead seeking a maximum of eight years.