Finally, the summer is about to get very interesting.
The national hockey league and players association are about to kick off their collective bargaining negotiations in hopes of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement is set to expire on September 15th, which is approximately when teams are set to report for training camps and the start of a new season.
These are interesting times for all the parties involved in this process. You have a public that has spent the last year hearing about labor unrest in both the NFL and NBA, with agreements from both of those leagues looming large in the process of negotiating a new CBA.
These are important times for the players as well. To talk to some people around the league, asking the players to give back even more (after what they gave up the last time there were labor issues) is not where anyone in the NHLPA wants to see this go. As for the owners, they would love to see a system that sees the revenue split closer to what the NFL and NBA saw negotiated in the last year.
So the million dollar question is how to you find a middle ground without losing any games? The players association struck the first blow in the all important PR game when union leader Donald Fehr expressed hope on Monday that the league would not lock out players if an agreement is not reached and games would continue. While there is no indication whether that is a feasible solution, it would be surprising if that was how this ultimately played out.
While neither side has expressed what they are hoping to accomplish in collective bargaining, the vibe around the process is not a good one. It will be interesting to see in the coming days what the initial meetings give us. That will be very telling in what the prospects for hockey to start on time really are. It is sure to be an interesting next couple weeks, with one of the biggest battles of the year set to take place in the board room, and not on the ice.
The Lightning announced they have issued qualifying offers to six players. Keith Aulie, Brian Lee, Brendan Mikkelson, Evan Oberg and Jaroslav Janus all received qualifying offers from the Lightning today. Anders Lindback, who was acquired from Nashville earlier in the month, received a qualifying offer from Nashville prior to getting traded.
Defenseman Sebastien Piche and LW Benoit Pouliot were the remaining restricted free agents who did not receive qualifying offers from the team. Pouliot is an interesting case, considering he was acquired this past weekend at the NHL entry draft. This is not uncharted territory though for Steve Yzerman and the Lightning. A year ago, the Lightning acquired defenseman Bruno Gervais and did not offer him a qualifying offer. His signing was announced later that day. It would not be surprising if a similar path is followed here.