While he may never again don the Blue and Gold in battle on the ice surface, the Buffalo Sabres still have a use for Brad Boyes.
Despite being an unrestricted free agent on Sunday, Brad Boyes will represent the Buffalo Sabres when the NHLPA and the league owners begin meeting on Friday July 29, 2012 to discuss labor relations.
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on September 15th, 2012. Thats just nine days before the Buffalo Sabres are scheduled to open up their pre season schedule. If the players and owners do not want to sacrifice part or all of another season, they will have 78 days to complete a new agreement.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr made it clear that the players union is ready to get a deal done in a timely fashion this summer with the NHL. Fehr would not comment on what issues would be focused on in the negotiations.
While the two sides might be closer to an agreement on many issues than they were when the last contract was negotiated, players got the wrong end of the deal under this CBA, having to accept a hard salary cap and a 24 percent salaray cut. This time, the players are much more active in the process, and that could be a good or a bad thing.
One of the biggest sticking points has to be the revenue sharing process, where the NHL teams get a much bigger piece of the pie than say the NFL or NBA. Players will definitely want to position themselves to increase that amount. Here are some other issues that I see as being important to both sides of the discussion:
1. Schedule/travel/realignment – the Winnipeg Jets are still a western conference team playing in the Eastern Conference. There are several teams closer to the Eastern seaboard that would gladly trade places.
2. Could we see the franchise tag in hockey? Currently the NFL uses the franchise tag to allow a team from losing a key proponent of their team. There are two types of franchise tags in the NFL, exclusive and non-exclusive. The NHL could look to adopt this style to help franchises hold onto players drafted by teams, or integral to a teams performance if the team fears that they are going to hit free agency and the team is not going to have a chance to resign the player. I haven’t heard any rumors that this is coming up in talks or that its even an issue – I never see the NHLPA agreeing to it, unless the league gives them something major in return. Free agency is gold in the NHL, and a franchise tag would put a further restriction on a guy getting to free agency, even if by a year.
3. Salary cap floor. Teams in the NHL can’t spend more than the salary cap. They also can’t spend as little as possible while staffing a complete roster. Teams have to be at least 16 million below the cap at a minimum. With the cap growing each year, many see that as a good sign as the league is growing, increasing revenues and gaining ground. Money-losing teams however may not want to carry such a high payroll. NHL players are for the salary cap floor, the league is going to try and get rid of the floor, or at a minimum set a wider distance between the cap floor and ceiling, helping out the less financially stable clubs.
4. Contracts. Im not a fan of the NFL – but one thing that teams have the ability to do there is cut a guy and jus tear up his contract. In the NHL – teams have to gaurantee every penny of a guys contract, and cutting a guy can get really expensive. Again – this is not in the players best interest as it takes the guarantees out of the process and teams can cut a guy with no recourse. It does help the teams get out of a contract that they might regret signing (read that as New Yorks Islanders v. Rick Dipietro type contracts). If the NHL gets this agreed upon, there could be term limits on contracts. NHL teams are going to look for any possible avenue to skirt the salary cap, even if it means stretching a guys deal out 15-20 years. Even if the teams don’t want it, the NHL is going to try and do what it can to save the teams from their own worst enemy – themselves. Many teams have their eyes on one price – The Stanley Cup, they forget about business acumen and financial security. While that may work for the high rollers, aski Quebec and Phoenix how thats working out for them.
78 days is not a long time, especially if there is a sticking point in negotiations. If negotiations continue past the 15th – the union is saying that games could be played under an extension of the old CBA – but it is unlikely. A work stoppage or lockout once play has started can only be messier than a clear break on the 15th.