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NHL executive: "Slow progress" as marathon talks continue

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • January 6, 2013 - 4:01 AM
On Day 112 of the lockout, the icy staredown between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association finally started to thaw, possibly in time to salvage the season.
 
The two sides were into their marathon 16th hour of bargaining as of 5 a.m. ET (with talks still going). This came after a federal mediator felt there was enough traction to reconnect the parties across the table Saturday afternoon at 12:45 ET. This doesn't take into account that mediation actually began at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
 
Words is talks will keep going as long as there's momentum as both sides try to hit the finish line.
 
Early Saturday evening, there were a “few significant issues” that needed resolution, a source said, but there was optimism around the hockey world that the bridge was being gapped.
 
“Slow progress is being made,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in an email. “We hope to continue meeting to resolve as many open issues as we possibly can in pursuit of an agreement.
 
“Dialogue has been good and there has been a healthy give and take, but there are unresolved issues.”
 
The original goal was to start training camp Jan. 12 and a 48-game, all-conference season Jan. 19 (Hockey Day Minnesota) if a collective bargaining agreement was reached by Jan. 11. But both sides are motivated to get a deal complete by Sunday or Monday so training camp could start sooner with perhaps a 50-game season, a source said.
 
In my opinion, that would make the division of the schedule more palatable for fans. While the league hasn’t said how it would divide the games, in a 50-game season, it would make sense that five games could be played vs. each division opponent (20 games) and three vs. each conference opponent (30 games).
 
In a 48-game season, there’s a chance that 28 of the 48 games would be played vs. four division opponents (seven each) and 20 games vs. the 10 other conference opponents (home and home).
 
Just in case training camp is on the horizon, the Wild pulled center Mikael Granlund from the Houston Aeros’ lineup against San Antonio after warmups Saturday night. General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild didn’t want to risk injury to Granlund, who would be slotted as the Wild’s No. 2 center in training camp.
 
Fletcher said he nearly pulled Granlund from Friday’s lineup against Texas but opted not to. The 2010 first-rounder has already overcome an ankle injury this season. Jonas Brodin, a 2011 first-rounder, is still sidelined from a broken clavicle suffered in the waning moments of a game in Oklahoma City, so Fletcher doesn’t want to risk another with Granlund.
 
The league has reason to hammer out a deal. For the second time during the lockout, the majority of players voted to give NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr the authorization to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union if he so chooses. If the union were to dissolve, Fehr would no longer represent the players and they could file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL seeking to have the lockout deemed illegal.
 
The membership had a 48-hour re-vote that concluded Saturday at 5 p.m. because Fehr didn’t pull the trigger by Wednesday night’s deadline. If the courts found the lockout illegal, owners could face damages reaching hundreds of millions of dollars.
 
The two sides met late into the night Wednesday, but talks broke down Thursday when the players felt the league tried to slip language by them regarding penalties if teams under reported hockey-related revenue.
 
But tempers cooled and on Friday, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh spent 12 hours shuttling back and forth the 3 ½ blocks between NHL headquarters and the NHLPA hotel meeting separately with both parties.
 
That continued Saturday morning until Beckenbaugh brought both sides together.
 
If a CBA can be reached, the NHLPA has agreed to the NHL’s proposal of a 10-year term with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years.
 
But there were still outstanding issues Saturday night. While there was progress in a complex pension dispute, no deal has reportedly beed reached.
 
There is a slight gap in 2013-14 salary-cap upper limit demands. Canada’s TSN and Sportsnet reported the league has moved from $60 million to $62.5, while the players have dropped from a $65 million demand to $64.3. There was no agreement in the league’s desire to have a max variance in salaries in order to curb back-diving contracts designed to circumvent the cap. That is intertwined with the league’s desire for six-year max contracts (seven for teams to re-sign their own players).
 
More to come. Talks still continue at this late (or early) hour.

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