Chimera optimistic about CBA negotiations
DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
|Washington Capitals forward Jason Chimera, left, seen here chasing Buffalo Sabres' Tyler Ennis Tuesday at the Perry Pearn camp in Edmonton. (QMI Agency/IAN KUCERAK)
EDMONTON - Jason Chimera is holding out hope the NHL and its players association can come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement in time to avoid an extended lockout.
The Washington Capitals veteran is preparing for the upcoming season as he always has, skating with a group of Edmonton-area players at Perry Pearn’s three-on-three conditioning camp at the Knights of Columbus Arena.
Chimera is optimistic the two sides will reach a compromise as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and executive director of the players association, Donald Fehr, prepare to meet Wednesday in the next round of negotiations.
“I am, as long as the league comes down from their initial stand, which I thought was a little bit ridiculous, especially seeing how the game has gone and how it’s grown, to see them try and put salaries back to where they were,” Chimera said. “We took a 24% cut last time, which at the time was pretty drastic. And to take another 24% cut, that’s 48% of the salary that I could have been making. But it’s not only that — it’s about the free agency issues as well.”
Chimera, 33, has two years left on a $3.5-million extension he signed with the Capitals prior to last season.
The veteran has been through this situation before. He was a member of the Edmonton Oilers during the lockout that wiped out the 2004-2005 season.
“I think things are different this time around. The lines of communication are definitely open,” Chimera said. “I was in New York for one of the meetings and it was pretty cordial. Everyone was talking about things and no one was up in arms and saying things like, ‘I’m not talking to you again until you propose this,’ which is good. They’re talking about the little things too, which means when it all comes into place that it’ll happen a little bit quicker.”
Having Fehr at the head of their negotiating table this time around also has the players better informed than they perhaps were with during the last round of talks.
Players are receiving daily updates on the status of the negations and seemed more unified as a group.
“Don has done a good job of keeping everyone informed and keeping everyone up to date with what’s going on. It’s important to be up to speed,” Chimera said. “I thought our proposal, which I was involved a bit with, was pretty good. We proposed revenue sharing and ways that the league could fix some of the problems that they say they have as we go along.
“You look at the revenue that the league has made, it would seem pretty dumb to have a lockout now.”
Given the owners’ initial proposal to the players, it seemed a lockout was inevitable. The offer involved a drastic cut in the players’ slice of league revenues, contract limits and the elimination of salary arbitration among other concessions.
“I think both sides are a ways away, but I think both sides agree that we don’t want to have a lockout and hopefully this can be settled,” said Oilers winger Darcy Hordichuk. “We definitely have a lot more support from the players this time around. A lot of guys who have long-term contracts will be affected by this, and I don’t think anybody wants to roll back their contract.
“But we’re trying to find different opportunities for smaller markets and teams that are struggling, trying to find different ideas to help them out. At the end of the day we all want to play hockey, and hopefully something will get done.”
Another thing players seem to understand is that a lockout would not just affect owners and players. Everyone loses if the league doesn’t operate.
“I know it’s tough for fans to take sides in this when people are basically fighting over money. I know it’s tough for fans to see that,” Chimera said. “What everyone has to remember it’s not just our livelihoods that are just on the line, it’s the people that work at the arenas and people that work around the game. There’s a lot of livelihoods at stake and I think the players and the owners have to take that into consideration, too.”