The Buffalo Sabres were supposed to play host to the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks this week. Instead, the First Niagara Center and every other NHL Arena remain dark as the NHL lockout approaches its fourth month.
Games have now been cancelled through December 15th and there don't appear to be any indications a deal will be reached anytime soon but former Sabre Martin Biron remains optimistic. The New York Rangers player representative joined the WGR Morning show on Tuesday and said he thinks there will be hockey this season.
“I always said yes and I continue to believe we will at some point play just because its too important for everybody" Biron said. "Its too important for the players, the fans, the owners. We believe, the players believe, that the gap is very small right now. We talked about a 182 million dollar gap on the make whole provision over a 5 year period which equals out to about a million dollars a team a year."
While the two sides remain apart on how the revenues should be divided, figuring out how to share billions of dollars isn't the main sticking point as far as the players are concerned. Their big issue with the owners most recent proposal deals with contracting rights. Among those are entry level contracts, capping the length of contracts, the age for unrestricted free agency and arbitration rights.
“The last time around, seven years ago, when we finally agreed to a salary cap, we gave up on the notion of living in a free market but we wanted some protection coming our way when it came to free agency, salary arbitration which was something that we acquired" Biron told WGR. "For the league to want to go backwards on that is almost like us saying we want to go backwards on the salary cap and we’re not saying that. I believe those were rights that we acquired seven years ago that we should keep now."
Biron said the players don't feel they have a real negotiating partner right now because the owners have yet to reach the point where they truly feel the pressure to strike a deal. He added the players feel that a handful of owners are driving their agenda and that too many owners aren't being given the opportunity to speak up and get involved in the bargaining process.
You can listen to the entire interview with Biron and hear what he says is NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr's philosophy for these talks.