Whole lotta nothin’ goin’ on in NHL CBA negotiations, as the two sides move closer to moving their standoff from the boardroom to the courtroom.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports, apart from a brief phone call between NHLPA counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday, there’s no plans for formal talks between the two sides on their ongoing CBA standoff. LeBrun suspects the league isn’t interested in returning to the bargaining table unless the PA makes a new CBA proposal “or at least new ideas that would be worth exploring”. One NHL player, however, texted LeBrun questioning that tactic, claiming the PA made a new proposal back on December 6.

The league has been playing hardball since talks collapsed on December 6, believing” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr is waiting for mid-January — i.e., the 11th hour — to finally make his move”. LeBrun expects more games will be cancelled by the end of this week. “In order to play anywhere from 48 to 50 games, you need the puck to drop in and around Jan. 20 (to play until late June). So that certainly sets up the first 7-10 days of January as the last possible window for bargaining”, he writes, adding much on whether the players file for disclaimer of interest by January 2.  “It’s a big game of chicken.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s where we’re at now. I’m currently pessimistic over the two sides returning to the bargaining table before New Year’s Day. I’ve stated throughout this lockout if a deal weren’t reached by then, it’s time to start the doomsday clock on the season. I’ve neither seen or heard anything to make me reconsider that assessment. The latest I believe they can go to stage a 48-game schedule is January 15th, meaning the season would start on January 25th.  If there’s nothing resolved by the 15th, expect the league to cancel the season at some point beyond that.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: James Mirtle interviewed US sports law expert Nathaniel Grow over where the latest developments are going and which side could win if this standoff heads to the courts. Grow isn’t dismissive over the NHLPA’s chances to have their disclaimer of interest hold up in court, pointing out they’ve never gone this route before. If the PA did opt for decertification, they couldn’t reform as a union for 12 months, which would go against the NHL’s argument their disclaimer of interest is a sham, though it would make it difficult to resolve the dispute in the short term. Grow also suggests there’s some leverage for the disclaimer route, as it forces the owners to “face the possibility that they will have to pay $30-million per day in damages should a settlement not be reached.” Ultimately, he feels the benefits for the players are modest, but then, so is the downside.

CSNPHILLY.COM: Tim Panaccio suggests the way things stand in the CBA negotiation, don’t expect the two sides to negotiate again until after Christmas. He also suggests it’s possible NHL commissioner Gary Bettman could announce a “drop-dead date” for starting the season by Thursday or Friday.

CBC.CA: Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper lamented the damage the lockout was having for the NHL brand, but expressed his hope the two sides could resolve the situation soon.

Babcock fears NHL popularity will tank post-lockout.

Babcock fears NHL popularity will tank post-lockout.

NBCSPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock suggests the NHL ratings could fall below bowling after this lockout.

CALGARY SUN: Eric Francis believes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shouldn’t present the Stanley Cup in future Cup Finals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis isn’t the only pundit and blogger to make that suggestion. While I agree, I also don’t expect that to happen. Bettman is the league commissioner, and he sees it as his duty to present the Cup to the champion. He doesn’t care how much of an unnecessary distraction his presence may be. I expect the fan reaction to that first Cup presentation post-lockout could be uglier than usual.

NATIONAL POST: Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber” suggests the Cup could be the prize in a national competition to determine the best non-pro team in Canada.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forget about it. Won’t happen. The NHL doesn’t “own” the Stanley Cup, but they won’t allow it to be presented to the best non-pro team in Canada, or anywhere else.

TORONTO SUN: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has declined an invitation to participate for Canada in the upcoming Spengler Cup tournament.