As the gathered hockey media filed into a cramped room in the NHL offices, embarking on an adventure that involved Darren Dreger's sour face, it felt as if once again the fate of the season hung in the balance. Looming over the night's talks was the threat of the NHLPA filing a disclaimer of interest, which would throw a significant wrench into the ongoing negotiations.
Leading up to midnight there were several mumurings of frustrations inside the meetings and it seemed as if all of the negativity was leading to news that the union has filed. The 12 a.m. ET deadline for filing the disclaimer came and went, however, as it soon became clear that the two sides were still talking and continuing in what we now know as "negotiating."
The big news of the night came when, once the meetings concluded at 1 a.m. ET, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr met briefly with the media. Fehr stated that Wednesday's meetings involved the use of a mediator as the two sides attempt to "build a bridge" in order to reach a deal. Fehr did not disclose whether the disclaimer had been filed, only that the two sides are found movement in some areas but that more work was needed.
Gary Bettman then stepped in front of the media and confirmed what Fehr would not, stating that the word "disclaimer" had never come in conversations during the night. Bettman also made it clear that a federal mediator had been involved and that the two sides had engaged in "philosophical discussions" over why certain issues were important to each side. It's also been said that discussing specifics of a deal with a federal mediator present is tricky.
"There's been some progress, but we're still apart on a number of issues," said Bettman. "But as long as the process continues I am hopeful."
Both Bettman and Fehr acknowledged that negotiating sessions would continue on Thursday at 10 a.m., apparently at the request of mediator Scot Beckenbaugh. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported that the mediator has been involved for most of the week.
It appears as if player pensions remain a major sticking point, as the players and league attempt to figure out liability percentages after apparently agreeing on this issue a few weeks ago. Also on the table are contract term limits, the CBA term limit, players escrow and a proposed $60 million salary cap for the 2013-14 season. There were reports that the players may think the $60 million cap is not just to save money but to force more talent to be spread throughout the teams.
This is likely tied to the belief that several big market teams are unhappy with the proposal cap, with the players even stating they were fighting on this issue on the behalf of some owners. The spreading of talent, more parity throughout the NHL, is something the league has been fighting for since the last CBA. Word is, however, that the league is apparently unwilling to budge on the $60 million cap.
There have been reports that the players had agreed to the 10-year CBA term, as well as the six-year limit on new contracts, although those terms could end up being contingent on a cap around $65 million in 2013-14.
There was speculation all night on whether the NHLPA requires a vote once more in order to file a disclaimer of interest, which remains an option for the union. It seems that the union could quickly file a disclaimer if talks to lead to a deal "soon," which could be an attempt to try and gain back leverage that the NHL has obviously gained in the past few days.
NHLPA decided to make an important concession. They don't ask for a cap on escrow anymore.— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) January 3, 2013
They're back at it at 9 a.m. CT, with a federal mediator present. Biggest issues seem to be player pensions and the 2013-14 salary cap. This is probably going down to the wire.