I agree with you and many hockey columnists that the two sides are not that far apart. But I suppose I just don't share your level of optimism, at least for the immediate future. When I read the ESPN blog you cited plus the coverage from Canadian media, the players appear to be sending signals that even the slightest movement on the part of the owners might bring about a quick resolution to this dispute. Appealing, for sure. However, how can anyone rule this out as another negotiating ploy? What Fehr and players want most is a resumption of negotiations, preferably along the lines where they left off. If the league takes the bait, and puts forth a new offer with concessions on some of those contracting issues, how can the league be sure it won't again fall into a trap causing them to negotiate against themselves? That's why I think at this point, it's incumbent upon the players to table the next comprehensive offer. The fact that the players flatly refuse to do so raises substantial questions in my mind about how serious they are about winding up this dispute sooner rather than later. When they finally do so (probably in a matter of weeks, not days, in my opinion), that'll be the surest sign yet that the lockout will soon be over.
Sure, the dollars were contingent on the other points, but they still agreed - and the other points were just not that vital in my opinion, at least not in terms of the numbers. I am not buying for a minute the idea that the five-year max deal is a hill the NHL is willing to die on. That would be monumentally stupid. The players have agreed to the NHL structure of the deal, including the cap on the length of contract and a limit on annual salary decreases. In my opinion, the agreement to the framework of the NHL deal was far more important than the agreement to the numbers which were contained in that framework. There's just not very much left to negotiate. Even the make whole difference is pretty small, even taking that off the table - $90M. Just not that much money when it really comes down to it. You may be right that it will still take weeks. But I really don't see the season being lost over differences which are pretty negligible at this point.
Under more typical circumstances, I'd agree with most of what you've said (although I've not heard that there's any kind of agreement yet with respect to contract term limits and salary variances from year to year). But consider this: at best, we're at the same juncture as the middle of last week. Despite how close an agreement might be, there's been no movement, at least no positive movement. Obviously, the problem right now is that both sides are dug in, and neither side trusts the other. I seriously doubt the legal theatrics will do much to accelerate these labor talks either. Only the passage of time, until we're much closer to the deadline, which most seem to agree will be early or mid-January.
Like I said, I don't think that trial balloon floated by one of the owners was meaningless and I don't think the players' response was meaningless either. Fehr obviously wants to go to the edge and extract every possible concession he can. I guess the question is: does he think he can get more?
"The league also claims player contracts will be voided should they go ahead with threats to disband their union because, in the NHL’s view, all existing agreements would cease to exist."
Oh boy, time to make a second batch of popcorn
NHL lockout: Dissolving union voids player contracts, league claims - thestar.com
Last edited by aragorn; December 18th, 2012 at 01:12 AM.