As 2012 winds down I’m tempted to wax optimistic about an end to the NHL lockout in the wake of a close-the-deal offer to the NHLPA by Gary Bettman and the owners, but I’ll resist the urge until we see if there’s any sign of actual progress after a conference call between the parties this morning.
Fans have had the optimism kicked out of them through the ups and downs of the process as Donald Fehr and Bettman have taken turns looking like boobs representing their respective positions as the stalemate has stretched into the triple digits in terms of days. Arms-length cynicism is probably a good call as we get ready to welcome 2013.
What I will say, as others already have, is that if there isn’t the basis for a deal in the NHL’s latest offer in time to salvage a 48-game season starting Jan. 19, I’ll be astounded (even allowing for the stubbornness and stupidity displayed by both sides until now).
If you didn’t read the highlights of the latest offer by the NHL, provided by Jason Gregor here, there’s a comprehensive summary of the fine print Fehr and Bettman will be discussing today here, courtesy of TSN.ca.
I expect we’ll have a pretty good feel for which way it’s going to go – by way of an official news release or educated speculation in 140-character snippets — by the time people are toasting the New Year and wearing lampshades on their heads at midnight (or earlier) Monday.
THE WAY I SEE IT
While most of the latest offer represents only minor tweaks to previous offers, or no change in position at all in many aspects, there is movement. As it pertains to teams already over a projected salary cap of $60 million, like the Edmonton Oilers, language regarding the cap is significant.
As per TSN: "Clubs can operate with an effective Upper Limit of $70.2 million in 2012/13; must come into compliance with $60 million Upper Limit for the start of the 2013/14 season."
That provides teams like the Oilers, 13th in payroll at $62,933.33 according to CapGeek, time to get their salary structure in order and wiggle room for rosters, at least until the puck drops for the 2013-14 season.
With Nikolai Khabibulin ($3.75 million), Andy Sutton ($1.75 million), Ryan Whitney ($4 million) and Darcy Hordichuk ($850,000) coming off the books after this season, GM Steve Tambellini might have the option of filling a hole or two for an abbreviated 2012-13 campaign – the WOW deal Bob Stauffer at 630 CHED hinted at a couple months ago.
While the above players have to be replaced, an astute GM (there’s the rub) could do it by using younger, cheaper players on the upswing for those roster spots. Will the Oilers re-sign Whitney, even if he stays healthy? The way I see it, Tambellini could fill those four spots for about $4 million a season.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
If a season is salvaged, I urge teams, regardless of any edict from the NHL head office, to resist the temptation to trot out the super-lame "Thank-you fans" messages we saw on ice surfaces around the league after the last work stoppage. That’s pure spin and PR. Thanks for what?
If teams are the least bit serious about thanking fans in a meaningful way (I have my doubts), then make it real: announce a league-wide 10 per cent cut in the price of tickets, and a similar rebate for season ticket packages already purchased, for this season and all of 2013-14.
Finally, I’d like to wish everybody at Oilersnation and our readers a happy, prosperous and productive 2013.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.