As talks heat up and then cool down and Bettman and Goodenow keep us spinning round and round... here's my solution to the CBA, along with some explanation of the concessions I believe are required from both sides:
1. Major systemic concession by players: Payroll range system with cost certainty.
Per the league's latest offer, a salary floor/cap system will be put in place, tied to league revenues. First, you determine league revenues, then divide this by the number of teams. The teams will be required to set their payroll so that it falls between 52% and 60% of the per-team league revenue figure. This is a small step up from the %s proposed by the league in their latest offer, but on average would result in 56% of league revenues going to player salaries. This is equivalent to a salary cap on last-year figures of about $40M at the high end, but also forces teams to have a minimum payroll of about $32M on the low end. This would put the total payroll payouts to the players at the same level as their 24% rollback plan would. The cap max and min would shift from year to year as league revenues increase or decrease.
1.1 Corrollary concession by owners: Auditing partnerships
The players contend that one reason for opposing cost certainty is that they can't trust the bookkeeping of the owners. So each owner will have to accept an NHLPA-designated accountant as a member of their financial front office. The NHLPA accounting rep will have full and continual access to all financial data for the team s/he is assigned to monitor. The NHLPA can choose whoever they want to fill these positions, and the league and NHLPA will split salary costs (e.g. 30 accountants @ 100k per year = $3M, so it's not a big financial burden either way).
1.2 Corrollary concession by owners: Salary Cap transitional rules
All contracts remain guaranteed, with provision for buyouts at 2/3rds of the total remaining value on the contracts. Teams may designate 2 existing player contracts to hold outside of the salary cap, but when these contracts expire, they will thereafter be fully subject to the restrictions of the cap. (e.g. if you have a Yashin or Jagr or Pronger with huge deals, you can take them outside of the cap for now to help get down). For each salary held outside of the cap, teams will pay a 25% fine on the contract into the league revenue sharing stream.
1.3 Additional concessions:Salary rollbacks
Neither the 24% rollback the NHLPA proposed nor the equivalent 0-35% rollback suggest by the NHL needs to be implemented. The NHLPA will be tasked with deciding on how they want to implement a one-time rollback on all existing contracts which sees an immediate 15% reduction in total player salaries. How they want to achieve that 15% is entirely up to the NHLPA.
2. Salary Arbitration
I'm going to have to side with Healy on this for now... you can't just throw it away. Players have a 1-time right to file for salary arbitration as RFAs. Teams likewise have the option to file for arbitration 2 times per season. In every case, the awards are either/or acceptance of the player or team submittals, the arbitrator cannot choose any other value. Teams have the right to accept the award as a 1- or 2-year contract at their discretion. Teams can walk away from any award rendering the player an unrestricted free agent at any time.
3. Qualifiying offers
For restricted free agents, qualifying offers are 100% for players earning less than the league median salary (currently $800,000). QO's are 80% for players above the league median salary.
4. Entry level system
Accept the NHLPA's 3-year entry level system with max base salary of $850,000. Allow up to 6 "Type B" bonuses of max $250,000 each for approaching major league awards, all star team berths, etc. But throw away the "Type A" bonuses. This allows a maximum of $1.5M in bonuses, for a total max entry level salary of $2.3M.
5. Unrestricted free agency
Compromise... lower the age to 30.
6. Entry draft
Retain the current framework, but make the following changes:
1st round: all players 18 years and older are eligible
2nd-3rd round: all players 19 years and older are eligible
4th-9th round: all players 20 years and older are eligible
Teams retain rights on graduating juniors until one year after they finish junior, they retain rights on drafted NCAA players until 1 year after they graduate, they retain rights on European prospects for max 3 years, after which the players re-enter the draft if they are below 24, or become unrestricted free agents at 24 and over.
7. Revenue sharing
The league has carte blanche to address revenue sharing however they want, or leave it aside. My propsoal would be to share all non-gate-receipt revenues equitably (advertising, TV contracts, etc), along with any over-cap tax amounts per 1.2. But really, it's their money, so whatever. Just keeping in mind that what they do will tie-in with the 52-60% cap/cost certainty range, and teams will have to be profitable enough to meet the minimum salary floor.
8. Schedule and other considerations
Establish a rules committee to look at the game. Give the NHLPA reps one vote per team along with the board of governors on any rule/format changes for the league. Consider reducing schedule to 76 games, etc, at a later date pending first round of recommendations and subsequent board/NHLPA voting from the committee.
Something like that. Anyway, it does bring in the cost certainty, but it gives the players most of their other requests, tightening them up in some places, but then only rolling back 15% on salaries and making sure they have no worries about transitioning to the cap or guaranteed contracts. What am I forgetting?
Oh yeah, I wish they would just stay on strike/locked out forever. (Kidding). Well, this is actually easier to talk about than "why I hate Ribeiro/Brisebois". It's not as good as taconite or pretzels or any of that mind you. But basically, it passes the time.