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HOCKEY HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 63: LOOK WHO'S TALKING
Published December 2, 1994
NHL owners and players resumed negotiations in Chicago yesterday, with one insider describing the session as "good, not great." In this morning's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, the CANADIAN PRESS' Alan Adams reports on the state of talks on the top issues at hand. ROOKIE CAP: The NHLPA dropped its ceiling for entry- level salary restrictions from $1.5M to $1.25M. The owners are still in the neighborhood of $700,000. ARBITRATION: The NHL wants to retain its proposal to make an arbitrator's decision non-binding. But the league did propose that a maximum of two players be allowed to "walk away" -- become unrestricted free agents if the team decides not to pay the salary determined by an arbitrator. The NHLPA wants arbitration to remain binding. The two sides have reportedly agreed that an unrestricted free agent's salary cannot be used for comparison purposes in an arbitration case. FREE AGENCY: Both sides have agreed to unrestricted free agency at age 28, and the union is said to have agreed to the NHL's "franchise player" proposal. The owners want each team's franchise player to be the highest paid player on the team, while the union proposes that franchise players receive the average of the top salaried players of each of the 26 teams -- about $3M a season. LUXURY TAX: The owners' tax plan was not on the table yesterday (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2). In New York, Richard Sandomir reports that the owners' caps for rookies are $700,000 for 1st round picks, $400,000 for 2nd, and $250,000 for 3rd. On free agency, Sandomir reports the league wants to raise the age-limit on unrestricted free agency to 31 (N.Y. TIMES, 12/2). The union is also believed to be negotiating for "increased benefits and a share of NHL licensing revenues, as well as an increase in playoff award money" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 12/2). WHAT TO EXPECT: In Toronto, Bob McKenzie writes, "The NHL expects entry-level restrictions, modified arbitration and elimination of Group One free agency from the players simply because it believes that's what's required to help put the league's economic house in order. Now, the NHL is prepared to trade unrestricted free agency for a tax. The NHLPA isn't biting, though it still wants and expects the new world of free agency. The crystal ball, fuzzy as it may be, suggests if the improvements in free agency are less liberal -- say unrestricted status at age 30 with or without a franchise-player clause -- the impetus for the tax will be significantly reduced or eliminated" (TORONTO STAR, 12/2). TAX PLAN ON ICE? ESPN's Al Morganti reported the owners "are willing to back off" of the luxury tax, saying he believes they are unwilling to risk the a season "by forcing this luxury tax down [the players'] throat" ("SportsCenter," 12/1). In New York, Larry Brooks also reports that support for the tax has "dwindled" among the NHL Board of Governors. "But the league was believed to be supporting a relatively benign tax in the rate of 5-to-10 percent on free agent signings" (N.Y. POST, 12/2). But in Boston, Stephen Harris reports that a "hard-line faction" of about 10 teams (Bruins, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Panthers, Devils, Canucks among others) have decided that the players' concessions are insufficient and that the luxury tax should be brought back to the table (BOSTON HERALD, 12/2). ALL-STARS LOSE: Keith Olbermann, on Team Gretzky losing to the IHL Vipers: "If this is how they're going to settle the lockout, the owners won" ("SportsCenter," 12/1). Wayne Gretzky wouldn't name names, but complained about efforts to "sabotage" the team's tour. Gretzky: "CBC and ESPN have been kind enough to step up to the plate and not worry about the pressure. ... But I guess people aren't tired of watching bowling and pool on TV yet" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 12/1). Team Gretzky sported Coca- Cola decals on their helmets, and L.A. Gear patches on their NHLPA jerseys (THE DAILY). Mike Barnett, agent to Gretzky and Brett Hull, promised an expanded exhibition schedule if the season is canceled: "It would be of grandiose proportions, managed by the players, on a world basis in scope" (Dave Luecking, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/2). CBC confirms that Molson will be a "full sponsor" of the two telecasts of Team Gretzky on December 3 & 10 (Ken McKee, TORONTO STAR, 12/2).