Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com NHL Insider Craig Custance stops by to chat about the latest news from the ice.
Custance joined ESPN in September 2011 as an NHL reporter for ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Insider and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN following a stint with the Sporting News. A graduate of Michigan State University, he lived for nearly a decade in Georgia working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he spent time covering the late Atlanta Thrashers.
Send your questions now and join Custance Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (12:59 PM)
Hey everyone! Big news from Toronto where the league took a major step forward and made another offer to the NHLPA. Let's dive in and take questions about the impact moving forward.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When do you think that we will see NHL Hockey?
Craig Custance (1:01 PM)
In my opinion, this offer from the league is reason for optimism. I have consistently pointed to Jan. 1 as my over/under start date but this breakthrough shows me the league is serious about getting a full 82 game schedule in. Suddenly, there's urgency in these negotiations.
Craig - how on earth does the math work on a 50/50 split with no roll backs? Would the cap immediately drop?
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Yeah, that's the big concern. The details haven't emerged yet on how that would be handled without a rollback but I know there are players who are concerned about what escrow would look like under a 50/50 split. But yeah, we'll see the cap drop although not as dramatically as we would have with a sub-50 split.
Brian (Falls Church, VA)
Is there any chance of two sides agreeing in the next week? It's hard for me to gauge how much of an impact that today's offer has.
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
Brian - I think it's a significant move by the league. It's a good faith offer from a league that strongly wanted the PA to make the next move. The NHLPA was gunshy about making another offer after what happened last time with the rollbacks. WIth all the complaints we heard about the NHL's first offer, this is a good point to really dig into talks.
do you think this will get the ball rolling?
Craig Custance (1:06 PM)
I really do. One of the sides had to give and I don't necessarily think this is what the final deal will look like but it gives them something closer in which to negotiate. Without knowing the details of escrow and the definition of HRR, I give the league credit for making the offer.
If this proposal goes through with a few tweaks, soes this mean the entire schedule is pushed back? More games per week? Keep the full All-Star break? Finish in July?
Craig Custance (1:08 PM)
This proposal is based on an 82-game season which is still possible. As CP's Chris Johnston reported from Toronto, this new offer means a Nov. 2 start with each team playing an extra game every five weeks.
Joe Fan (Everytown, North America)
Where's the part in the new proposal that talks about lower ticket prices? If owners/players getting theirs, where's ours?
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
Joe Fan - Let's say this deal is accepted, it's still pretty significant drop in revenue division for the players from 57 to 50, so I wouldn't say they're getting theirs. But the win in this scenario for the fans is that they'd still get to see an 82 game schedule.
Craig, do you believe that the offer made by the NHL is a good one and if so why?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Greg - I think it's significant in that the league took a step forward and made the next move. Until I see how HRR is defined and if there's a cap on escrow, it's hard to say whether it's good for the players. I'm not great at math, but I don't know how a split from 57 to 50 works without a rollback. But it's a good offer in that the league looks like they're serious about getting a full season in, which is great for those who care about the sport.
Bryan (Levittown, NY)
PA won't accept that. NHL knows that. Seems like NHL just wants to get the public back on their side.
Craig Custance (1:12 PM)
Bryan - The PA may not accept it in its current form, but it gets negotiations going. I'm curious to see Don Fehr's reaction to it before really weighing in. But focus groups aside, I think the NHL is more worried about getting a deal done they like than public perception.
Jeffrey A. (South Florida)
Craig, all these things sound like great "concessions" but do you think that was planned or did the NHL ever expect to actually get those things? Will Don Fehr kill our optimism?
Craig Custance (1:14 PM)
Jeffrey - That's the beauty of that first offer by the NHL. They can make this one and it appears like they've made real concessions. In reality, it's still a drop in revenue split from 57 to 50. The concessions may come in things like contract length, arbitration and other factors we haven't heard yet. Like you, I'm especially interested to see what Don Fehr has to say about this offer.
Ryan (Detroit, MI)
What are the odds that my Winter Classic ticket won't be worthless come Jan 1st?
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
Ryan - I think they just went up pretty dramatically. The NHLPA's response today should give you a better idea.
Any word on if this new offer changes the contract rules with length, RFA times, ect. Because if not I think this offer is just the NHL trying to shift blame to PA
Craig Custance (1:16 PM)
Not yet Bobby, but yeah, if they haven't moved on any of those issues, then there's no way this offer is accepted.
If the players don't accept a 50/50 split, do you agree that THEY will be seen as the "bad guys"?
Craig Custance (1:17 PM)
I'm not sure either side looks good when games are lost and fans perceive it as billionaires fighting with millionaires. I think educated fans would want to see how some of the other issues are addressed in the CBA besides the revenue split. But I think, in general, fans think a 50/50 split is a good start.
Tim (East Lansing)
Do you think the players that got a head start in other leagues will benefit...or could it be too much now that they are trying to get in an 82 game season. Could guys like Datsyuk be worn out by the playoffs?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Interesting question Tim. If the season is started in early November, I don't think there's a huge advantage for players who are playing overseas. But that would change if this thing drags on into January. But these are pros, I don't see any of the players worn out any more than normal by the time the playoffs roll around. The only thing I'd be concerned with for guys like Datsyuk and others playing in Europe is the risk of injury.
Ben (San Jose)
Depending on the rollback stuff and the salary cap in the new agreement, do you see any teams that might be over that limit? Who is in danger?
Craig Custance (1:21 PM)
Ben - I haven't had the time yet to calculate what the new cap number would be (someone feel free to go ahead and do that) but depending on what the final split is, we may see some transition rules put into place to help teams that are close to the current salary cap.
Dan Kriegbaum (Tampa)
Any word on when they'll respond?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Hey Dan - Don Fehr told media in Toronto (who he is addressing right now) that the NHLPA's executive board will have a 5 p.m. conference call today to talk about the offer.
Any live stream of these pressers?
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
No idea. Anyone want to help Mike out?
Could the NHL possible stonewall this proposal? How would this proposal NOT lead to the end of the Lockout ?
Craig Custance (1:24 PM)
Dave - It's a major positive step. Just received a note from colleague Katie Strang who reports that under this offer escrow is capped and the players current contracts will be honored. That's a pretty big deal.
Alex (State College)
Any chance this offer is accepted as is?
Craig Custance (1:25 PM)
Alex - It's still a negotiation so I'd be surprised but there appears to be some movement on the secondary issues as well, which is a positive step too. Fehr telling reporters that the NHLPA will respond sooner rather than later to the offer, which is also good to hear.
Clark (Los Angeles)
If the proposal is accepted, how soon could it take for a player like Roberto Luongo to be moved?
Craig Custance (1:27 PM)
Clark - That's where things get interesting. It could depend on how desperate the Canucks are to get under the cap, if that's an issue at all. But they're not going to rush this just to get a deal done. THey feel there are enough interested teams that the return should be better than just a salary dump. But they also don't want to drag things out and have it become a distraction.
Ham (Columbus, OH)
Is this even real? I have been so pessimistic about a deal the entire time. Now, I have this other feeling that's, like, the complete opposite of pessimism. Someone should create a word for that feeling.
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
Haha - Ham, I'm excited too. For so long we've been hearing nothing but negative movement on negotiations. This is a real breakthrough.
I'm happy that the NHL made a new proposal, but isn't November 2 a bit ambitious as a start date?
Craig Custance (1:30 PM)
Yeah, in chatting with a player this week, he said all the players really need is about 2 weeks and an exhibition game or two to get things rolling. It would be a really quick turn but at the same time, you don't want to wait much longer than that if you're trying to cram in a full season. Then injuries become a concern.
Steven (Reno, Nevada)
today has been exciting. W/ the report that escrow is capped and the player contracts will be honored. I can see (unless the HRR) is totally insane that this wont be the point where the deal gets done in a week or less. This is seems to be a big deal, and bettmen deserves a ton of credit.!
Craig Custance (1:31 PM)
If they can get this done without losing a single regular season game, I think both sides deserve credit.
Thanks for taking our comments and responding. From what I have heard from the prelim reports, it appears the league blinked first and gave in to most of the issues the players were disputing. Am I interpreting this correctly?
Craig Custance (1:33 PM)
Brandon - Whether you want to characterize it as blinking first, I think it was a major step in good faith by the league to make another offer. They really pushed for another offer from the PA and the PA was gunshy to do so. The one thing the players are concerned about that I haven't heard anything on is revenue sharing. Curious to see how it's addressed in this offer.
Clinton (Detroit, MI)
so the season would end at the same time as before, meaning more games in the same time frame? So we'd probably see 4 games a week or so?
Craig Custance (1:34 PM)
Clinton - Each team would play an extra game every five weeks or so is what Bettman told the media in TO. I think that's pretty reasonable and eases injury concerns.
Jessica (Atlanta, Ga)
So the season will start November 2nd, only if they the NHLPA agrees? or are we really looking at the new season dates?
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
Jessica - Yeah, for that Nov. 2 start date to happen, the NHLPA would have to agree to this deal or the league would have to agree to a counter-offer quickly. There's a 5 p.m. player conference call and Fehr expects a response from the NHLPA to come fairly quickly.
I was kind of hoping for a shortened season. 82 games is just too much, no?
Craig Custance (1:36 PM)
Gotta get those 82 games in to keep the HRR high for both sides. It's about the money. But I'm definitely not against a shorter regular season at all.
Phil (Raleigh NC)
If the deal is 6 years, that's even shorter than the last one.. is that because of the uncertainty of future growth? Are we going to be chatting like this again in late October 2019-ish?
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
Haha Phil - C'mon, let's get through this lockout before we start talking about the next one!
Can all players overseas return as soon as the NHL starts up again?
Craig Custance (1:38 PM)
Thos - Yeah, their deals allowed them to return once the two sides agreed to a deal. There's been some speculation that some of the Russian players won't return but I'm not convinced that will happen especially if it puts their Olympic hopes at risk.
Does the lockout affect teams like Anaheim in the sense that they have a harder time locking up FAs now? Does Toronto somehow get Getzlaf from Anaheim if they can't resign him. Especially if games are lost and Anaheim has an even worse financial year...or is there too much Anaheim influence in Toronto now to appeal to Getzlaf?
Craig Custance (1:40 PM)
Stef - It's an interesting question. If the CBA ends up being a win for the owners, that actually may give ownership in Anaheim more flexibility to be able to afford Getzlaf. But boy, would he be a great addition for BB in TO.
Garrett (Long Island)
Hey Craig! Lets be really optimistic here... Who plays in the ECF/WCF, Stanley Cup Finals, and the eventual champion???
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
I love it - we're all ready to move on! Right now, I'm thinking we'll see a ECF between the Rangers and Pittsburgh and a WCF between the Canucks and hmmmm, maybe the Blues. Canucks over Penguins in 7 but I'm reserving the right to change my mind depending on what happens with Luongo.
Does this mean Tim Thomas might actually have to take the season off alone?
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
Let's hope. Even better would be Tim's triumphant return. I wish he'd reconsider, the sport is worse off without him around.
Any idea how revenue will be effected if they do start on Nov 2 with an 82 game schedule? Or to put it another way, how much have they already lost in fan support?
Craig Custance (1:43 PM)
I think one of the reasons the league is pushing for a full 82 game schedule is you'd still likely be able to recoup most of the HRR. I think fans will be forgiving if they find an agreement without missing games.
This is a genius move and timing by the league. It is designed to show they want a full season for the fans and 50/50 is going to look very fair to most people's eyes. Smart move. I think the NHLPA has to move quick to not become the bad guys here!
Craig Custance (1:44 PM)
It definitely shifts public perception, for sure. At this point, I hope both sides are more worried about getting a deal done than public perception though.
Mike (Mission Viejo, CA)
Lets get some actual hockey questions in today! What chances do you give my Kings of repeating this year?
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
Mike - Sorry, I love Dean Lombardi and I know he's moving heaven and earth to find a way to repeat but I think it's just too tough in hockey. Especially if we're talking about a condensed schedule now. That's a team built to contend long-term but I think it's almost impossible to repeat in the cap era with all the parity hockey has now.
Finally! Now lets get this done. Minnesota isn't Minnesota with Wild Hockey.
Craig Custance (1:45 PM)
What did the players orignally want for contract lengths and RFA time?
Craig Custance (1:46 PM)
Jeff - Players don't want any restrictions on contract length. Many believe that a cap system is already restriction enough and that there shouldn't be additional artificial limits placed on contracts. We'll see though.
With Bettman I'm always skeptical. Did he make the minimum UFA age 45, or something? That way he could claim he made what appears to be a reasonable offer, but...
Craig Custance (1:47 PM)
Haha - it's always a good idea to get the details before forming a real opinion. That's where I'm at right now.
Craig: Agree of disagree: The fact that there will be no immediate roll back on salaries is the real game changer here. We all knew that a 50/50 split or something close to it would eventually be discussed, but no rollback on salaries is what shakes the foundation of negotiations thus far.
Craig Custance (1:47 PM)
Robert- That's huge, but how is it going to work? I haven't seen that answer.
Should I cancel the order of my Giroux Berlin Ice Bears jersey?
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
I don't know Bowser. That's still a pretty sweet purchase.
Hey Craig, This means the Avalanche HAVE to sign O'Reilly now...right? The Avs are way under any kind of cap and this lockout with the league and stalemate between O'Reilly's camp and the Avs cost money, negotiating time and possibly the "C" to him
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Chad - That's another interesting point. What will the salary floor look like when all is said and done?
Ryan (San Francisco)
What are the chances that the NHL adds some expansion teams in the coming seasons?
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
Really, really good. In my opinion, it's just a matter of when and where, not if.
is this the year the wings don't make the playoffs? say what you will about their offensive power but what about their blueline and goaltending
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
I like Jimmy Howard. I'm not concerned about goaltending in Detroit. I'd be concerned about that defense. You don't lose Nicklas Lidstrom and not expect a dramatic drop off on defense. I still think Ken Holland has another move in him before things get settled. And I'm not ready to say they miss the playoffs.
Katie Strang reports a 5 year limit on contracts, RFA starting at 28 years/8 years of service and 4 year limit on entry level contracts. NHLPA will be countering this I assume?
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
IF Katie is reporting that, it's accurate. And yes, I'd expect a counter.
With the Seattle arena deal signed when do you see a team there?
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
Aaron - The first thing to realize about that arena deal is that it's contingent on Seattle landing an NBA team. So until that happens, you can't get too serious about planning an NHL team there. But I know the NHL loves that market and is very intrigued by the idea of a team there. I think if Seattle lands and NBA team, it won't be too much longer after they lure an NHL team either through expansion or relocation.
Bro, how's the tan look these days?
Craig Custance (1:54 PM)
Am I a fool for being ridiculously giddy right now? Am I just going to be disappointed by the end of the day, when Fehr says they're still a long way off?
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
Boom - I'm excited too but yeah, it's always prudent to reserve enthusiasm until we hear from both sides and get a full understanding of the offer.
Jim (Hinsdale, IL)
Craig, could both sides have been motivated by our very own and greatest ambassador of the sport Eddie Olczyk's induction into US HOF ystrday? Both sides could gain from such a genuine hockey spirit.
Craig Custance (1:56 PM)
Jim - I love Eddie O's passion for the game and especially his passion for USA Hockey. He's always been willing to do whatever it takes to grow the game in the States and I admire him for that.
Do you golf? Can you beat Bucci?
Craig Custance (1:56 PM)
how can they drop the cap that much and not roll back salaries? without some kind of phase in isn't this the same as cutting salaries (ie if it's not going to the players checks it's still a cut in salaries, escrow or not)?
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
Craig - Exactly. That's what we have to figure out. IF players are losing money in escrow, it's no different to them than a rollback. But it sounds like there's a cap on escrow which is key.
Just get this thing approved, I'm already tired of reading how well Briere and G are doing in Berlin.
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
You're not alone Karen
Constance O'Houlihan (Tacoma)
Hiiiiiiiiii-eeeeee Craig-eeeeee! It's me! Constance! From Tacoma! I follow you on Twitter and saw you mention me! OMGOMGOMGOMG! I fainted from excitement. I wasn't even going to submit a question this week, Craigy, because I was going to instead dress up like you and ask my dolls hockey questions. "Teddy Ruxpin, what are your thoughts on HRR?" LOL! Oh well. I guess I'll have to think of something else for my dolls. My question for you, Craigy, is this -- due to the shifting economy that now sits on shaky ground due to collapses of once steady economies throughout Europe, does it make sense for the next CBA to extend more than four years due to the unpredictable and volatile nature of the American dollar coupled with the unknown nature of Canadian business as it relates to China? Farts.
Craig Custance (1:59 PM)
Have a great week everyone!