Bettman also said that while there was no “drop-dead” date, he couldn’t imagine playing a season of less than 48 games, which likely means that the sides have roughly another month to figure things out, and said the thought of losing a second season in eight years “torments me.”
Bettman and Donald Fehr were not present for meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, instead turning the floor largely over to owners and players. While at times contentious, the meetings were perceived to be productive and resulted in the owners’ offer—then Thursday happened.
Daly and Bettman were audibly frustrated at what they perceived to be the NHLPA changing the issues most important to them as a means of gaining leverage elsewhere.
It was a stunning reversal of course in a day filled with them, but the takeaway is unquestionably bad. Fehr had said that the main sticking points were the league’s proposed five-year limit on contracts and maximum five-percent variance on salaries, which is designed to avoid back-diving, cap circumventing deals.
“We had expressed the view that previously we didn’t think we were nearly as far apart as the owners did, but I think it’s clear now that after the players took today, that there doesn’t seem to be very much room—certainly not unbridgeable room—and we think that the positions the players took today are a step to end this particular dispute,” Fehr said.
Then he left. Then he came back—with bad news.
Owners offered players $300 million in “make-whole”/transitional payments on Wednesday night. Their previous offer was $211 million; the players’ previous request was $393 million.
Fehr said the sides agreed on the main financial issues—the yearly revenue split and how much owners would pay players outside of that to “make whole” on existing contracts, but both he and New York Rangers captain Brad Richards restated how important the contract limit issue was to the union.