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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gary Bettman and the NHL's New Offer: Resolution or Ruse?

NHL Makes Major Offer To NHLPA

Thank you Mr. Bettman, you've given me a reason to write again.

I have been trying to encourage myself to write for some time now, but never ending talk of the lockout was enough to keep me away.

The player profiles kept me going at first, but the longer the lockout lasted, the tougher it became for me to write about any player's fit on a team that may not play.

After a while the idea seemed almost as silly to me as EA simulating the season and people following it as if it were real.

I don't mean to get ahead of myself, I'm writing as if the lockout has come to an end, which it hasn't. The fact that Gary Bettman and company have offered a deal that seems almost perfect doesn't necessarily guarantee anything. Because the only reason it seems so perfect is because everybody just wants NHL hockey to return.

The Offer

While I don't have all of the details of the offer, the gist of it is a 50/50 split of hockey related revenues, four year entry level contracts, free agent eligibility at 28 years old or eight years of service and a contract limit of five years. The offer also had no rollback and was aimed at a November 2nd start.

According to Bob McKenzie (via twitter), if a deal is reached, training camp would start October 26th. McKenzie also tweeted that a new deal would need to be reached by October 25th in order to salvage an 82 game schedule.

If the cards play out this way, the NHL schedule would go on as planned starting from the November second start date with minor alterations being made throughout the year. The end date would not be April 13th as planned and the Stanley cup finals would go as late as the final week of June.

Best/Worst Case Scenario

The best case scenario is quite obvious. Fehr and the players accept the offer, the 2012-13 season is put into motion and everything is back the way it should be. Unfortunately, best case scenarios are rarely the ones that unfold.

The worst case scenario would be that Gary Bettman is simply making this offer knowing the NHLPA will reject it in order to escape his position as the villain in this mess.

The main reason why it is safe to assume that this offer will be rejected is the HRR. While a 50/50 split of the revenue looks and sounds fair, the fact that there is no change in the definition of hockey related revenue will be a problem to the PA.

The 50/50 split itself shouldn't bother the players but with things such as relocation fees and expansion fees not falling under the category of hockey related revenue, the players are missing out on a lot of money.

And expansion is certainly not a farfetched concept, especially with The Hockey News recently reporting that the NHL was looking at adding two new teams.

Is The Whole Thing A Ruse?

Regardless of whether or not the NHLPA goes for this proposal, the fact that the NHL has shown a willingness to compromise on issues such as entry level contracts and free agency eligibility is a huge step in the right direction.

That at least, is the optimist's view. I try to place myself in that category but it's hard to remain fully optimistic about a league that has become known for it's lockouts.

What truly worries me is that this whole deal truly is a way for Bettman to escape the role as the villain.

Bettman created this lockout. Bettman chose not to attempt to avoid the impending lockout until it was just around the corner. Bettman erased the start of an NHL season for the third time in his tenure as league commissioner.

This does not make for a very popular man in the eyes of hockey crazed markets.

However, if/when the NHLPA rejects this offer, how can Bettman continue to be the villain in the eyes of hockey starved fans? The twitterverse is already full of comments stating that if the players don't accept this offer then they are a bunch of greedy, overpaid crybabies.

All the negative focus will shift to Donald Fehr and the players. The pressure will be off of Gary Bettman and the owners.

Part of me believes that Bettman is up to something here. However, the other part of me is willing to accept that this lack of hockey has turned me into a crazy conspiracy theorist.

How about your thoughts? Should and will the players accept the deal? If not, how far do you think the two sides remain? Is Hockey in November a true possibility?

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Sean is a freelance writer currently contributing to HabsAddict.com. He is also a regular blogger and frequent panelist on the Habs post game show at MontrealHockeyTalk.com You can follow Sean on Twitter

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

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