Mayers says NHL, NHLPA are close, remains optimistic

Mayers says NHL, NHLPA are close, remains optimistic
December 10, 2012, 11:08 pm
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Jamal Mayers sat in on all of those ownerplayer meetings last week in New York City. And while things broke off in an ugly way last week, the Blackhawks forward says there isnt much separating the two sides.

Being involved in those meetings, the reality is we are that close, Mayers said on Monday. My hope is when the dust settles and cooler heads prevail theres enough owners quite frankly itll have to come from them to put pressure on (commissioner Gary Bettman) and say, Are we going to lose a season over how close we are? And for those who suggest, Well, why dont players move more? Theyre not giving credit for how far weve already moved at all. The reality is, the deal is right there to be made.

We have to figure out what to do with the transition rules, going from old system to new system, the cap numbers going to change, allowing teams to perhaps opportunity to have one player amnesty, Mayers said. There are some things to work out from there. But I just worked out in general terms how we are that close.

Mayers said the two sides agreed in principal to transition payments (aka make whole), which executive director Donald Fehr said prior to Thursday nights blowup. The league, however, said the economics agreement was contingent to the NHLPA accepting three other items: CBA length, player contract limits and some transition items.

It wasnt presented to us for the transition paymentmake whole, that theyre tied together to everything else. That was never, ever said in any of the meetings, Mayers said. So that comes as a surprise.

The league wants a 10-year CBA (with an opt out after eight). The NHLPAs latest proposal moved to eight years. Owners are adamant about a five-year contract limit seven years for a player re-signing with his current team to the point where deputy commissioner Bill Daly called it the hill we will die on. Players offered eight years max.

So why are players so against that five-year maximum? Mayers used the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example:

If you were to sign a guy like Sidney Crosby to a five-year deal (or at least eight year deal like were proposing), you end up paying Crosby 12 million a year, whatever 20 percent of the cap is, for the entire length of the contract. Flat line. Because youre not able to change the numbers at all and have any kind of variance because hes going to get his security within those five years. Whats Evgeni Malkin going to get? Hes going to get 12 million. What about (Marc-Andre) Fleury coming up? (Kris) Letang? Youre not going to be able to keep the team together. Youre also going to crush the middle class and lower-tier players. All that moneys going to get eaten up by those guys.

Theres a reason why Sidney took a little less and this contracts designed the way it is because he wants to play on a good team. Youd think that owners would want something similar, Mayers said. I believe theyd want it like that because it allows them to keep their players. But most importantly it crushes the middle-class player.

Mayers said the NHLPA also proposed a solution to the back-diving player contracts, including those signed this past summer.

Any contract seven years or greater, if the player was fit to play but retired anyway, you would take the dollars remaining, or the cap hit number, and penalize the team and charge them a cap hit for trying to take advantage to finding a loophole, he said. To me, if you have that in place, and you have a variance in our new system where we said eight-year contract length, you wont have those issues with back-diving contracts. So what do they care on how the moneys allocated? Its like a salary cap. You can only spend X, thats it.

Despite the ugly end to last week, the two sides did correspond this weekend. Daly told the Associated Press that the sides are trying to set up something for this week, but nothing finalized yet.

Obviously Im still optimistic, Mayers said about a season. Thats the reason why were here skating and trying to get ready.