The NHL and the NHLPA are engaged in more posturing serious talks at Rao's an undisclosed location on Tuesday in New York, attempting to end a lockout that has claimed over a month of scheduled games, the 2013 Winter Classic and any semblance of decorum between Darren Dreger and Allan Walsh on Twitter.
The battle line's drawn rather starkly: The NHLPA has made honoring current contracts its rallying cry, months after revenue sharing was its cause du jour.
The NHL is sticking to its proposed framework for a deal like it was Flick's tongue to a metal pole; a framework that included a "make whole" proposal to honor existing contracts but that also offered several other provisions that were less palatable for the players: The 50/50 revenue split, the rookie maximum contracts of two years, a maximum contract length of five years and a cap of five percent above or below the first year's level of compensation for salary during the contract's term.
Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com believes the NHLPA won't cut a deal unless the NHL moves on "contract rights."
The good news is that some of these NHL demands were put in place for the sake of negotiation: No one believes the majority of the owners want a 5-year cap on contracts when even the most hawkish ones were handing out 6-year terms this summer (hi, Jeremy Jacobs). So the NHL will come up a year or two in "good faith" and the wheels inch closer to the destination for these talks.
Again: Some of the NHL's sticking points are flexible. Others, not so much. So what will Gary Bettman and the owners fight for at this stage of the talks?
Larry Brooks of the NY Post expects the NHL to push free agency later and toss first-year players under ye olde bus:
Several individuals have told us the league will be willing to negotiate off its proposed five-year contract term limit and 5-percent variance on annual salary, though the NHL does seem committed to increasing unrestricted free agency requirements by a year in experience and/or age, to eight years and/or 28, and likely will dig in on its proposed Entry Level changes.
The AHL provision and the punitive retroactive punishment regarding front-loaded long-term contracts previously registered by the league are as much team issues as NHLPA issues, both restrictions aimed at the heart of successful big-market teams and aimed at the offices of general managers who from time to time make mistakes.
Then there are issues like AHL salaries counting on the cap and all of the various debates about Hockey Related Revenue, but these are the meaty issues facing the two sides.
[Eric Adelson: With no Winter Classic, players should take it outside]
Can the NHLPA agree to a deal with new restrictions on rookie contracts? Sure, but only because one imagines the vast majority of players aren't in this fight to preserve the integrity of the entry level contract.
Can the NHLPA agree to a deal that includes delayed unrestricted free agency? Tough call. The players know that's when the owners can't help themselves in spending, and it's potentially cutting another year into their prime.
Will the NHLPA agree to a deal that costs the players anything they maintained in the previous CBA?
That's the real test, when Donald Fehr's mantra has been: "After all the concessions the players made last time, in the billions of dollars, and with the owners having had record revenues seven years in a row, and the two highest growth years being last season and the season before, we see no basis upon which to tell players to go backward."
As for the NHL ... hey, maybe the sponsors can have an affect on when this thing gets done, according to Ad Age.