Almost as quickly as the gathered hockey media in New York City began to speak of optimism that a deal is close, especially from the owners, calls for caution began to ring just as loud. The NHL and NHLPA are meeting for the first time since Thursday after federal mediation seems to have pulled the two sides closer together on key issues, although the threat of a disclaimer of interest by the union still looms over the day.
The vote by the players, which would once again allow the NHLPA executive board to disclaim interest, is set to conclude this evening at 5 p.m. CT. After that point, Donald Fehr will be able to quickly file the disclaimer at any time he wishes and there have yet to be any reports of what the deadline, if any, he'll have to file by.
It is this threat, since no one knows exactly what that does to negotiations, that have most speaking of caution instead of outright optimism as the two sides appear close. That, and it appears that some work is still needed on certain key issues:
Are we going too far by saying a deal is close ? Yes I've been told. So before we start the celebration, lots of work to be done here.— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) January 5, 2013
Those key issues remain the same as they have been: the salary cap in 2013-14, maximum contract length and year to year variance. Both sides are close, although the NHL and NHLPA have both expressed previously they would not budge. This morning, however, there were reports that movement was made on both sides and that enough common ground was found that mediator Scot Beckenbaugh felt a meeting was useful.
So, there's certainly more optimism than there was just three hours ago, but a lot of work remains. Who knows what happens when Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman are back in the same room together?