The NHL and its players' association are set to return to the bargaining table Wednesday. As of now, the talks are scheduled to be in an "undiclosed location." A better question than "where" is, What will the NHL bring?
"Anything that we put on the table this week is off the table," Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday after the last round of talks imploded. One of the league's new offers was to increase "make whole" to $300 million, up from $211 million. Bettman said of make whole, "The concept itself is now off the table."
We'll find out soon if that's true.
One of the players' top objectives from the start was to earn the full value of their contracts. Hence, the make whole proposal, which is money from outside hockey-related revenue that goes to the players to reimburse them as the financial system moves to a 50-50 split from a 57-43 players' edge.
When the league introduced the proposal in mid-October, it said the amount needed for make whole was $211 million. As part of last week's talks, the NHL added $89 million in an attempt to make a deal.
"We tried to stretch a little more," Bettman said. "Sometimes you feel like you’re chasing your tail in this process, but we so much wanted to play that we went further than we should have, and when it didn’t get the right response, I started hearing from the clubs why is make whole still on the table?"
The only answer is it will be a necessary component to making a deal. But hopefully the union doesn't walk into Wednesday's meeting expecting $300 million. Using the league's point of view, it doesn't make sense to offer that much.
The majority of make whole was to cover this year's salaries, with the NHL saying $149 million would do it. But that was for 82 games. The league could be headed toward a 48-game season, which is only 58.5 percent of the schedule.
So, to make the players' contracts whole this season, the league would need only $87.2 million (58.5 percent of $149 million). Add that to the $62 million needed for next season, and the NHL's math suggests it requires only $149.2 million to cover make whole.
That's less than half of the $300 million that was offered last week. The way talks have been going, why would anyone expect the NHL to sacrifice more than it has to?