Reaction as the NHLPA begins voting today on disclaimer of interest, plus the latest analysis of recent NHL lockout news.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: cited an Associated Press report indicating the NHLPA will begin voting today “on whether they will grant the players’ association’s executive board the authority to dissolve the union because of the inability to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the league.” Two-thirds of the membership must vote in favor of allowing the PA executive to file a “disclaimer of interest”. The vote will be conducted over the internet over the next five days, and if the players vote for disclaimer, the executives has until January 2, 2013, to file the disclaimer and inform the league. On Friday, the NHL took action to challenge this move by filing a class action lawsuit hoping to declare the legality of its lockout.

Legal gloves about to be dropped in NHL CBA standoff.

Legal gloves about to be dropped in NHL CBA standoff.

OTTAWA SUN/STARTRIBUNE.COM: Bruce Garrioch and Michael Russo singled out a key section in the league’s complaint in which all existing NHL player contracts would be null and void in the event the NHLPA’s disclaimer were not deemed invalid by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):

“The NHL requests a declaration that, if the NHLPA’s decertification or disclaimer were not deemed invalid by the NLRB, and the collective bargaining relationship between the parties were not otherwise to continue, all existing contracts between NHL players and NHL teams (known as Standard Player’s Contracts or “SPCs”) would be void and unenforceable,”

Garrioch cites a PA source warning the league might want to be careful going that route, as teams with superstar players could risk losing them as free agents, while Russo considered the damage for both sides if all existing contracts were nullified.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why would the NHL go to that length as to nullify all existing contracts? My guess is they’re hoping to rattle the players by hitting them in the wallet while creating uncertainty over their futures. That,however, cuts both ways, especially for teams with superstars. We won’t know until probably early-January if it comes to that. It would certain create an interesting situation whenever the league returns to action, creating a frenzy of free agent signings on an epic scale. Covering that might help me recoup some of my losses from this lockout, though I’d probably have to mainline Tim Horton’s coffee to do it!

SPORTSNET: Mark Spectorand John Shannon on the sad state of NHL affairs in which everyone loses if this  lockout winds up going before the courts for resolution.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The best line to sum all this up came from Spector’s column. “A coach asked the other week, “What are we going to write on the ice when we get back? ‘Sorry we f—ed up?'”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks mockingly dismisses the NHL’s attempt to block the possibility of the NHLPA going the disclaimer route. He claims disclaimer and decertification “are neither maneuvers nor tenets PA executive director Don Fehr embraces easily”, as Fehr prefers negotiations. Brooks also considered it absurd the NHL recently didn’t want to negotiate with Fehr, yet now they’re essentially taking legal action to ensure he still negotiates with them. He also suggests the league threatening that every player would become a free agent if the PA were allow to disclaim or decertify could spell the death knell for a struggling franchise like the Columbus Blue Jackets (“Goodbye, Columbus!”). Also, a hardline owner like Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs might find it difficult to attract players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks’ mocking of the league aside, he does make an interesting point regarding the difficulty some teams, depending upon location, history or ownership, could find in re-stocking its roster if all NHL player contracts were voided. It would create a chaotic situation and a frenzy of bidding, significantly changing the NHL landscape. 

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Helene Elliott with an updated profile of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman has to be careful how he plays this situation. If it reaches the doomsday scenario some suggest, which ends up killing some franchises and a massive change in rosters, his legacy as the man who killed the NHL will be assured. Both sides are now engaged in a case of legal chicken to see who blinks first. Bettman’s gambling it’ll be the players. They could, but under Fehr’s leadership, that’s not a certainty.

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance reports Olympic participation and realignment are two issues which remain unresolved thus far in CBA negotiations

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators may be a Canadian-based NHL team, but they too could find it difficult to woo back fans whenever this lockout ends.

STLTODAY.COM: Just emerging from several unproductive seasons, the Blues could suffer under a new CBA. “The league has failed to deliver the message in these negotiations that there is a “business need” for many struggling franchises to fix the economic system. Instead, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has dropped lines such as “we’re paying the players too much,” which only motivated the union’s contingency.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An excellent point. During the last lockout, the league was very proactive in making its case for cost certainty via a salary cap system, which successfully earned it the support of the fans. This time, the league has done little to justify or explain its position.