2012 NHL lockout: Rushing things in the off-season

NHLPA Executive President Donald M. Fehr represents the players who wish to move up the start date to NHL free agency. - Bruce Bennett

While it's common to hear about divisions between the NHL and NHLPA, a report stated some of the things the lague and the Players Associatio have agreed to. One point seems enigmatic at best.

Normally, our stories that have centered on the 2012 NHL lockout have been about the failure during negotiations that has repeated over and over and over again. Sometimes it's been about hope, but oftentimes failure. Very few times have we had something substantive to share with the public that reflects on something that has come out of the negotiations besides revenue stuff and bile being spewed from the likes of ownership and the NHLPA.

So, it was interesting to see a report from Kevin McGran on Thestar.com this evening that muses a bit on common ground that's been found in the negotiating process.

"Right now, nothing is agreed on because we won't agree to anything until we get a deal on core economics," said one insider familiar with the NHL's positions. "But this is stuff where we said, ‘Okay, we'll go there.' "

Yeah, that's good. That's great. I understand that... It's agreed upon without a formal agreement. I get that...

The sides have more or less agreed to:

• Change the free agent calendar, meaning the market would open on June 15 or 48 hours after the awarding of the Stanley Cup - the players want whichever is later - instead of July 1. Arbitration dates may change as well.

Wait, what?

According to McGran, this has been pushed by the Players Association, which makes me scratch my head in trying to understand the motivation behind this. I mean, I understand that half of the NHL Players Association goes idle with the end of the NHL regular season. Some players end up competing in the World Championships, but growing majorities from early April onward are idle. Waiting for Lord Stanley's Cup to be awarded, signifying the true end of the season.

From a marketing perspective, however, moving up free agency seems like an outright fallacy. Think about this in terms of the NHL off-season as it stands right now: Over a two to three week period, the NHL crowns a champion, distributes awards to players, conducts an entry draft and then commences free agency. By the time mid-July rolls around, a single month after the season concludes, the NHL seems to have ceased to exist. There is little news and fodder for fans (the people who are ultimately driving player salaries to begin with) to muse about. There's nothing to look forward to. By the time August hits? It's a dead zone.

And unrestricted free agency, the day often marketed by Canada's TSN as "Free Agent Frenzy" would be moved up? As if the awards or the draft steals the spotlight of free agents or something... Or, perhaps, players would like those events to take the spotlight off them during free agency?

I don't get the logic in this. I really wish I did. If it's simply because idle players want to get free agency over with already, it still seems foolish. The league, pushing for contracting restrictions, agreeing to this makes sense... Mostly because the league wants to mute free agency entirely.

The McGran article has more points of agreement that have been hammered out between the league and the Players Association. It's worth a read for that. So if you haven't already, take a gander.

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