With the league's October 25th deadline set to expire today, it looks more certain than ever that the best we can hope for is a shorter season. How much does this factor into the equation for the players can be easily represented in dollar figures.
In the latest NHL proposal, the NHL is looking for around a 13 percent giveback by the players, effective immediately, which roughly translate to around the pay a player would get for appearing in eleven games over the season.
For the sake of simple math, let's consider that the first set of cancellations results in the league reducing the regular season to 72 games, or around a 12.2 percent reduction of the schedule.
Now let's take a look at the length of the current contracts. In all there are 1431 players who are currently signed to NHL contracts. 617 of those contracts expire at the end of the season, placing around 43 percent at a break even point should the league cancel those first ten games.
If the lockout drags on longer and they reduce the schedule to a 60 game package, then players who have contracts expiring in two seasons - factor in another 412 to bring the total to around 72 percent of the players now at around break even.
In 1994-95 the league managed just 54 games, or around a 35 percent reduction in games - and commensurate salary, and you'd see a whopping 1310 of the 1431 currently contracted players now at, or near break even - that's 91.5 percent of the contracted players if you're wondering.
Certainly it's not just about the current contract, players will likely see some downward pressure on their renewals as well, albeit this will also quickly pass. With the league revenues growing annually at 7.2 percent over the last decade, a player who renews his contract for 2013-14 could see on average a net 5-7 percent decline in what he might otherwise have made. If he's renewing two years from now, he could potentially see a modest increase from his current contract.
This of course doesn't take into account that if they continued to operate under the current agreement that they'd be expecting 7-10 percent raises for each year, but it's a long way from "taking money out of their pockets".
Even then, many players will still see increases, while others may be forced to take decreases or look for employment elsewheer.
Realistically the players are caught in a position where they have little leverage. There is no other employment opportunity for the vast majority of players that is likely to come close to replacing the lost salary, and thus it really is about negotiating off what the NHL has given them.
Every day they waste will ultimately cost them money and provide little upside.