For Brendan Morrison, it was a short drive to the in-laws in Penticton after two days of NHL Players Association meetings. But the road to returning to the ice could be long and full of potholes.
Not only is the Pitt Meadows native Morrison an unrestricted free agent who collected just 11 points last season in 39 games split between the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks, he needs to prove at age 37 that there’s some-thing left in the tank.
To do that, the centre needs to play. However, the prospect of that coming to fruition next month seems remote, with scheduled collective bargaining agreement talks Wednesday in Toronto reduced to informal discussions in advance of actual bargaining Thursday.
And as much as you could argue that an injury-free season after right knee surgery on April 11, 2011 might make Morrison attractive to a team looking for affordable depth, leader-ship and versatility – Phoenix, Ottawa and Edmonton might be fits – until a new CBA is struck, he’s probably stuck.
“We’ve talked to a couple of teams but it’s been real slow and with guys who are considered older, teams want to see what’s going to happen with the CBA before much action is going to take place,” Morrison said.
With others signing extensions longer than five years to reduce the salary cap hit and to guard against a new CBA not allowing contracts beyond five years - Taylor Hall signed a seven-year extension while Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds got six-year deals - those 35 years of age and above wait.
The current CBA requires that multi-year deals to those players count against the cap in the second year, even if a player is inactive. The UFA forward list includes Brian Rolston (39), Andrew Brunette and Jason Blake (38) and Jason Arnott (37) and, even though Morrison made just $1.25 million last season, he has to play the waiting game. The current CBA expires Sept. 15.
“The proposal that we did make, we feel it was outside the box and unique and a lot of time and effort was put into it,” said Morrison, who has an economics degree from the University of Michigan.
“We feel it can correct some of the systematic problems that the league says it’s having. The gap between wealthy and not-wealthy teams has grown and the goal was to shrink that, so we feel it’s a fair proposal.”
The initial proposal from the owners called for dropping the players’ share of revenue from 57 to 43 per cent, capping salaries at five years and stretching entry-level deals from three to five. There’s also the elimination of arbitration and 10 years of service required for unrestricted free agency.
In response, the NHLPA pitched a counter-proposal that would not link the salary cap to revenues and a fixed rate of salary increases the next three years - two, four and six per cent - would surrender $465 mil-lion US to aid in revenue sharing and prop up struggling franchises. Players would have an option of returning to the current CBA in the fourth year and receive 57 per cent of revenue.
There’s also the ongoing argument of what does and doesn’t count as hockey-related revenue, so it’s complex.
-Ben Kuzma is with The Province
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