NHL CBA negotiations could continue this week, plus various commentary on how the league & NHLPA have handled those talks to date.

NATIONAL POST: Ira Podell of Associated Press reports the NHL and NHLPA were in contact over the weekend seeking to restart CBA negotiations, which fell apart in dramatic fashion late last week. “Trying to set up something for this week, but nothing finalized yet,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote Sunday in an email to The Associated Press.

Bruce Arthur dismissed last week’s collapse in negotiations just part of the theatrics by the league, rejecting the league’s claim the two sides still remain far apart on the dollars. “They are, other than escrow and buyouts issues, zero dollars apart, based on the offers made this week. They are two years apart on the length of the CBA, three years apart on term limits for contracts, and there is other housekeeping here and there. But that’s it. That’s the gap. It’s a crack in the sidewalk. Just hop across.”

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Jeff Blair believes the NHL owners are out of tricks in their attempt to break the NHLPA, but wondered if the players can remain united long enough to bring about a deal. “In the meantime, the owners are down to the bottom of the bag of stupid owner tricks, and while hockey players were destined to give back more than they’ll ever gain in collective bargaining the second they opened the door to a salary cap, they are close to the point at which they’ve minimized their losses as much as possible”, writes Blair.

Eric Duhatschek reports Canada’s World Junior Hockey team has a “Plan B” should some of their young stars be recalled by their NHL teams if the lockout is ended prior to the start of the World Junior Hockey Championships.  “It will still be the usual collection of heart-and-soul teenagers that charms the country every Christmas with their efforts and commitment, but it won’t have nearly the same star power.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Certainly didn’t take long for the two sides to get in contact with each other following the breakdown in last week’s talks. That shouldn’t be surprising, for despite the sound and fury at the end of last week’s talks, it was apparent both sides moved much closer toward a deal than at any time during this standoff.  Though there are undoubtedly hardliners on both sides determined to crush each other, there are also those who believe a deal is close and want to see this thing through. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.

DETROIT NEWS: Gregg Krupa warns both sides their strategies could hurt, rather than help, negotiations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It comes down to the league’s attempt to divide and conquer as they did last time against what Krupa called NHLPA director Donald Fehr’s calculated approach. The danger is one side could push the other too far, resulting in a serious breakdown which scuttles efforts to save this season. I don’t doubt the anger and frustration coming from the league’s side, and I believe there are players getting worried Fehr could antagonize the owners into shutting down the season. Still, given the progress made last week, I still believe there enough folks on both sides willing to negotiate a resolution.

Could the efforts of Crosby & Lemieux help bring the lockout to an end?

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Rob Rossi recently took “an inside look” of how Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby got involved in the CBA negotiations and how they attempted to save this season. One significant factor was agent Pat Brisson, a long-time friend of Lemieux and agent for Crosby, who spoke with Lemieux around Thanksgiving about getting involved. They, along with Crosby, began making calls to get more owners and players involved in the talks.

CSNPHILLY.COM: Tim Panaccio also praised Crosby’s efforts, suggesting the Penguins captain seized the mantle of leadership in the same style as his childhood idol, Steve Yzerman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Imagine, an owner, agent and player working together to try to end a lockout. Gee, who would’ve thought that could happen.

MIAMI HERALD: David J. Neal warns the NHL much break its cycle of staging lockouts after each CBA, or risk damaging its fan base.

NEW YORK POST: The NHL could announce today the cancellation of the remainder of its December schedule.