Entering the first day of 2013, and day 108 of the NHL lockout, there is some hope a season-saving deal can be reached as the league and the NHLPA will continue negotiations today in New York.
CBC.CA: The NHL and NHLPA will continue CBA talks today in New York City, as the league finishes going over the PA’s counter-offer. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he expected the two sides will meet again at NHL headquarters around midday. Both Bettman and NHLPA director Donald Fehr were low-key and subdued during their respective press conferences following yesterday’s meeting, with neither side willing to express any judgement on how the talks went. Hovering over the negotiations is the January 2 deadline for the NHLPA to file a disclaimer of interest. “Players retain all the legal options they always have had, those things are internal matters and we don’t discuss them”, said Fehr.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the PA is believed to be focused upon transition issues in its 26-page counter-offer, including the salary cap for 2013-14, a cap on escrow for next season, the timing and accounting of amnesty buyouts, a limit on the amount the salary cap could drop over the three year period the players receive $300 million in “make whole” dollars, “and perhaps an adjustment on the division of make-whole payments per year.” The union “has calculated that escrow could rise as high as 15 percent under a $60 million cap for next season, and higher than that if the cap is set at $65 million. This, the PA believes, would represent a de-facto rollback on all existing contracts.”
SPORTSNET.CA: Mark Spector believes the PA has to decide if they’ll accept a salary cap closer to the league’s demand of $60 million (which comes with lower escrow) or a higher cap of $67.5 million, which comes with the risk of higher escrow payments. He doubts the league would approve of a cap on escrow, but sees room for further negotiation on the term limits for contracts, which could see the league and PA agree to a seven-year term across the board.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fact the PA isn’t trying to overhaul the league’s offer, or made one completely different from the league’s proposal, is a good sign. Granted, it’s possible Bettman and company are merely going through the motions here, reject the PA’s offer , and use their own as proof of their willingness to negotiate should this labor dispute with the PA end up going to court. Most of what I’ve read and heard from the punditry, however, indicates the team owners want to stage a season, and the players want to play, so the efforts by both sides toward a deal appear sincere at this point.
I could see the league being willing to set next season’s cap at $62.5 million, but no higher. While Mark Spector doubts the league will accept a cap on escrow, I wouldn’t completely dismiss it, though it might be closer to 15 percent instead of ten. I agree with Mark regarding agreement on seven-year term limits for contracts.
As for the PA filing for disclaimer of interest, as long as talks proceed well, I doubt the PA will go that route. Should talks break down, they’ll simply stage another player vote, which will pass with likely the same huge margin as the previous one, and file soon afterward.
NATIONAL POST: Bruce Arthur reports Bettman again reiterated the necessity for a deal to be in place by January 11 if there’s to be a 48-game season, which would commence on January 19.
TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox, however, dismissed the notion January 11 is a firm deadline to save the season, calling it “an artificial one at best”, pointing out during the previous lockout the league didn’t cancel the season until February 16. “What really matters now’”, writes Cox “is both sides want to get as many games in as possible, and a deal in the next two or three days might allow for a 52-game schedule rather than a 48-gamer.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps January 11th is an artificial deadline, but the PA’s response to the league’s latest offer suggests the players aren’t willing to test that theory. While I’d love to see both sides get a deal done by the end of this week to facilitate a 52-game schedule, I’m not expecting it. I believe both sides will haggle right up to January 11th.
In my opinion, the league is trying to use the 52-game schedule (and the extra $100 million it could generate) as a carrot to entice the players to push for an agreement this week, but that’s not going to work. Fehr and his negotiators aren’t going to be rushed, and the players want him to get the best deal possible. They’ll take a 48-game schedule if it ensures the next CBA will be better for them over the long run.
ESPN.COM: Scott Burnside suggests the fact Bettman didn’t angrily reject the PA’s counter-offer, as he did early last month, but responded in his usual low-key manner is a good sign.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell noted the absence of talk about the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and beyond. Campbell believes the fans deserve the NHLers participating in the Olympics after being subjected to yet another lockout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I see the league participating in the Sochi games, but after that, it remains to be seen.
LA PRESSE: Patrice Bergeron had four points (1 goal, 3 assists) while Ryan Smyth and John Tavares each scored twice as Team Canada defeated HC Davos 7-2 to win the 2012 Spengler Cup, the 14th time since the tournament’s inception in 1984 Canada has won the championship.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron has had considerable success in international hockey. In addition to being on this year’s Spengler Cup champion, he has won Olympic gold (2010), World Junior Hockey gold (2005) and World Hockey Championship gold (2004). To my knowledge, he’s also the only player to achieve those feats, plus play on a Stanley Cup champion.
CSNWASHINGTON.COM: Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin has announced his engagement to Russian tennis star Maria Kirilenko.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the happy couple.
CSNNE.COM: Tyler Seguin denied a report out of Switzerland claiming he left his National League A team due to a nagging hip injury. Seguin, who was part of Canada’s Spengler Cup-winning lineup, said he’s 100 percent healthy and was merely returning to Boston to wait out the NHL lockout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A number of NHL players who’ve spent the past several months playing in Europe have done the same as Seguin, leading some to suggest this means the end of the lockout might be close. I’d caution against reading too much into it, as many of those players could also return to Europe if the league indeed cancels the season if no agreement is reached by January 11.