In many ways, it has come down to this.
At 9:30 a.m. CT the NHLPA and the NHL will meet once more in the league offices in New York City, where the union is expected to make what is perhaps their first truly comprehensive formal proposal to the league regarding a new CBA. The two sides met on Monday, with 18 players in attendance for the PA and several owners on hand for the league (as well as Brian Burke) in what was a relatively curt meeting that was more of a "where do we stand" than actual negotiations.
The two sides have not met formally since talks broke down two weeks ago, when Chris Campoli reportedly got in to a bit of a screaming match with Wild owner Craig Leipold which in turn pulled others into the brouhaha as well. It was an ugly turn to what many had hoped to be progressive negotiations; instead, we got talk of possible cancellations and the league suggesting a "moratorium" on talks.
It's not surprise, then, that they decided to meet soon after.
On Monday, the league requested a formal proposal from the NHLPA in order to get an accurate stance on just where the union stands when it comes to all of the issues at hand -- not just player contracts and revenue sharing. Until now, the NHLPA has delivered rough outlines and vague proposals, a tactic that has greatly infuriated the league. Now, the hope is that the union will not only present an actual and formal proposal, but that what they put on the table will be something the two sides can move forward with and work together with towards a new agreement.
The determining factor on just how positive this meeting will be will be based on what the NHLPA uses for revenue shares for this season and future seasons. Until now, the union has been speaking in terms of dollar amounts instead of percentages, continuing to demand the players accept no less than the $1.883 billion they received last season. The players have also been reticent about taking any sort of prorated loss this season, since it is their belief it is not their fault that a good chunk of the season is now lost.
The NHL, however, will absolutely refuse to move forward with talks unless the proposal put on the table today shows the players dropping immediately to a 50-50 share of revenues. The only thing the owners will accept is a concrete percentage and it is unknown whether the players have decided to move concede on this very important issue for the owners.
On the other side, the players are concerned with the restrictive contract demands by the owners. The NHL has stated it refuses to discuss player contracts until the core economics issue is resolves; the players are worried that if they do concede on 50-50, then the league will not concede one bit on player contracts.
It's a game of chicken and both sides are worried about being the first to swerve.
If the NHLPA does concede on revenue shares but the league sticks with the hard line on player contracts, then talks will immediately break down.
If the NHLPA does not put a proposal on the table that satisfies the owners in regards to revenue sharing, then talks will immediately break down.
If either scenario occurs, then the NHL and NHLPA will retreat to their respective trenches, dig in deep, and it's likely the season will become a victim of this disaster fairly quickly. Expect game cancellations through Dec. 15 (along with the All-Star game) to happen immediately.
Let the games begin.
On a side note, the NHL and NHLPA have reportedly already agreed to a number of terms not tied directly to the two major issues being contested.
- The start of free agency will be moved to June 15, or 24 hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final - whichever comes first.
- Re-entry waivers will be eliminated.
- The inclusion of cap space in trades between teams (this is a big one).
- A neutral, third party will handle all discipline appeals.