NEW YORK -- As this gets written (12:35 p.m. in New York, 9:35 p.m. in Moscow), the NHLPA remains caucused in its hotel meeting room. I'd expect it's a difficult conversation.
The post-dinner meetings last night were emotional and negative
. Owners feel the players are giving them "moving targets," adding things to the conversation at late stages. The NHL's new negotiating committee feels that it's tried hard to understand what's important to the players and address those things.
The offer is not perfect. The NHLPA still doesn't like the five-year term limits and eight-year (plus options) length of the CBA. But the league has dropped its demands for changes to salary arbitration and free agency. While things are moving closer, the players are giving up more than they are gaining.
For a group of them, that is unacceptable. And when things broke down in the early hours of Thursday morning, they made that point very clear. But...
While the true drop-dead date probably isn't until early January, everyone realizes that the addition of Larry Tanenbaum, Jeff Vinik, Ron Burkle and Mark Chipman changed the dynamic -- for a day, at least. These are the guys who want to make a deal, and there is a feeling that if they can't do it, we're at DEFCON 1, no matter what the calendar says.
There has been a lot of work done overnight from within to calm down some of the angriest parties on both sides. They are so much closer, and so much work has been done, that too many people want to prevent failure.
It was probably a very good idea the meetings ended when they did. However, the players' biggest issue now might be internal. I can't quantify numbers, because there are 700 of them, but it's safe to say that there is also a group that will want to vote on the NHL's proposal if the union chooses to walk away.
That's not a great position to be in. They'd basically be voting on an offer they don't like, an offer not recommended by the leader or the negotiating committee. That never ends well for anyone.
Yes, there are other options. Decertification has been threatened, but to this point not acted upon. A return to negotiation would be nice. The problem is, we're playing "Beat the Clock." This is where the decision to wait so long to start talking bites everyone in the bum.
Either way, players are going to be unhappy. It's not an easy time for them.
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