New York, NY (Sports Network) - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated on Thursday that the league is prepared to lock out its players if no collective bargaining agreement is reached by Sept. 15, the day the current CBA expires.
"I reconfirmed something that the union has been told multiple times over the last nine to 12 months, namely that time is getting short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season, so we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon," Bettman said following Thursday's negotiating session. "We believe there is ample time for the parties to get together and make a deal, and that is what we're going to be working towards."
The league made a proposal to the players on July 13 and the sides have been battling on financial issues, including revenue sharing. The initial proposal by the owners would reportedly cut the players' split of league revenue from 57 percent to possibly as low as 43 percent.
According to the New York Times, that proposal would also limit contract lengths and extend entry-level contracts from three to five years. Also, players would not be eligible to become restricted free agents until 10 years of service rather than seven, which is currently in place. Salary arbitration would be eliminated.
"We made a presentation directly related to the owners' proposed revenue sharing system as it would be combined with the player compensation system that they had also proposed," union head Donald Fehr said. "It didn't look like the way to go."
Although talks are expected to continue Friday in New York, Fehr said the two sides will meet Tuesday in Toronto, at the union's headquarters, to have a response to the league's proposal for "core economic matters."
"Our initial proposal relates to the fact that we need to be paying out less in player costs," Bettman said. "While revenue sharing has been an important part of the existing collective bargaining agreement, we intend to have it going forward in an enhanced way.
"Revenue sharing isn't the key element. It's an element that has to be dealt with. The fundamental economics need to be dealt with first.
"We obviously have a wide gap to bridge on a whole host of issues, including the significance and importance of revenue sharing. This is something we've been doing in a significant way during the entire term of this collective bargaining agreement. It's something we're prepared to do going forward and increase in a variety of ways that we've proposed."
A labor dispute wiped out the 2004-05 season.