The NHL has plans to cancel games through Dec. 15 if a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place in the next seven days, according to Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal.
The next cancellation would would likely be for the remainder of the season, according to the report.
The NHL has already canceled all games through the end of Nov. as the league and the NHLPA continue to work towards an agreement for a new CBA. The two sides met for four days last week before talks fell apart on Thursday and Friday, with owners and players reportedly engaging in a heated exchange across the table as talks ended on Friday.
While the threat of cancelling games through Dec. 15 is a very real possibility, especially considering the logistics involved with getting games underway in early Dec. if a new deal is not reached soon, this is also an expected ploy by the league to force negotiations to happen once more. The two sides have not talked this week, nor are there any reported plans for future meetings, and a "nuclear date" is likely what was needed all along to get a deal in place in time to save the season.
The question, of course, is why this wasn't done before. The NHL, at this point, likely does not want to cancel the season. I believe they realize just how negative this current situation is compared to the one in 2004 and what is most important -- the two sides are much closer to a new deal than anyone with the league or the union want to admit.
At this point, it comes down to whether the NHL or NHLPA is willing to fall on their swords -- to cancel the entire season -- because of contract issues or a battle over just how much should be paid to players in a shortened season that is in danger of being canceled.
A hard deadline for getting a deal done was likely needed and this as close to such a date as we're going to get. Now, the question becomes whether we see this create any traction in negotiations.
Let the countdown begin.