The NHLPA made a significant proposal to the NHL on Thursday evening, even as it appeared as if both sides had completely broken off all talks as tensions mounted. Then it turned out that things have indeed broken off.
UPDATE NO. 2:
The following was written before Gary Bettman's statements were made to the media, and well before other revelations of the past 24 hours were known.
We'll have more on this debacle tomorrow.
UPDATE NO. 1:
Donald Fehr stepped back to the podium and said that the NHLPA was advised via a voicemail message that the moves the players made were not acceptable, that some part of the offer was now off the table, and the NHL feels that further meetings are not necessary this week.
"This looks like this is not going to be resolved in the near future," Said Fehr. "We don't know when discussions will resume."
The NHLPA may have just successfully turned the PR battle against the league, but essentially we've moved backwards and not forwards. Suddenly, decertification seems to be a very real option for the union. And that would mean no season and very, very serious legal ramifications.
Don't expect to have hockey by Christmas.
So, there's that. More tomorrow.
END HORRIBLE, NO-GOOD UPDATE.
On Thursday, before the NHL completely departed the hotel, the NHLPA put one more proposal on the table that apparently attempted to address the league's concerns. At issue are player contract term limits, the "make whole" offer that includes $50 million towards player pensions and a 10-year term of the agreement that includes an 8-year opt-out clause.
Reports from New York say that the players were frustrated and angry that, when making the new proposal, that Bettman and the owners were not present.
PA very disappointed Bettman and owners didn't attend todays meeting. 16 players, Don and Steve Fehr represented PA.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 6, 2012
What is interesting is that, by most reports, the NHLPA's offer was based of the proposal put on the table by the NHL yesterday. The players are most concerned with the player contract limits being demanded by the owners, an issue that appears to be the biggest hurdle in these negotiations, and the NHLPA's offer supposedly addressed those concerns.
While most acknowledge that the deal that will be reached won't be as good as what they enjoyed prior, there is always the risk that pushing for more and more from the owners and stalling for more time will do nothing more than guarantee a worse deal in the future.
It's clear that the owners are more than frustrated with the players, justified or not. Some are reporting that most of that anger is being directed at Donald Fehr, especially when the NHLPA requested mediation. Perhaps they felt, just like most of the media and fans, that a request for mediation meant another line was being drawn in the sand.
But not so fast.
Donald Fehr met with the media after talks ended, stating that the players offered an eight-year term to the CBA with an opt-out clause after six years. Fehr also stated that the players proposed a term limit on new contracts of eight years, with variability restrictions on contracts of seven years or more.
"The players responded comprehensively to the various issues that have been brought up at the meetings over last few days," Fehr said to the gathered media.
Most importantly, Fehr stated that he believes the two sides have agreed on the dollar amount of the actual agreement as well as the "make whole" provision. He also stated that he believes they have a complete agreement on dollars with the exception of transition issues related to getting a deal actual in place. Those transition rules will likely be another sticking point between the two sides.
This was what really mattered, however:
"We think there is a complete agreement on dollars," said Fehr. "Wouldn't seem to be very much reason why we shouldn't be able to conclude."
In the end, however, the NHLPA has said the two sides are close economically before but we've seen both sides not using the same math and not as close as one sides states they may be. The key to this is how the NHL reacts to this offer, as some feel that the owners have moved as far as they possibly can and won't budge any more.
So now, it depends on just how important the NHL feels that player contract limits and the term of the CBA is and whether either side is willing to sacrifice the season over these issues while it appears the two sides are extremely close on the most important part of this deal.
This, essentially, is a brilliant move by Donald Fehr. He has stated to the media and public that there is a financial agreement in place and now the ball is right back in the court of the NHL.
We'll have much, much more on this tomorrow.
I still think the light at the end of the tunnel is very near.