The NHL's most recent offer was designed to save the 82-game season. It required that a deal be signed by this week, so teams could stage one-week training camps ahead of the Nov. 2 start date.
As you're probably well aware, this week is this week, and the deal has not been accepted by the players. Thus, the NHL will withdraw it on Friday. From ESPN:
"When we delivered the proposal last Tuesday, we told them it would be on the table through today," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Thursday afternoon. "Having not reached agreement through today, I expect that we'll formally notify the union Friday that the proposal is no longer on the table. We're going to take it back internally and figure out where we go from here."
Daly was also quick to stress that he wasn't threatening the players in any way, but underlying what the league expressed to the NHLPA last week when it delivered the proposal.
I would imagine that, even before Daly assured the players he wasn't threatening them, they weren't all that threatened. The proposal that's come off the table? They sort of rejected it last week.
This is a little like parents removing the vegetables from the dinner table because their child refuses to eat them.
"Similarly," said TSN's Dave Hodge, "my dinner offer to Charlize Theron is off the table."
Of course, like the offer itself, this dramatic withdrawal isn't so much about what the players think. It's about what we think, and it has been since it hit NHL.com last week. I would argue that the proposal wasn't designed to save the 82-game season so much as it was designed to look like it was designed that way, thereby making the players seem like a bunch of jerks when they looked it over and came to the reasonable conclusion that it wasn't for them.
We can mourn the loss of the 82-game season, but keep in mind that we already did that back at the beginning of October when the NHL canceled the first block of games. More than anything, the last two weeks have really been about re-staging that mourning in a way that redirects our anger at the players.
One wonders about Gary Bettman's claims last week that this offer was the best the NHL could do. Considering their insistence on getting a deal done, are we to assume they're trying their hardest to negotiate when we're also to assume their next offer will be worse than this one? Or was that just a meaningless statement?
This is undoubtedly bad news for anybody hoping today's announcement would be something along the lines of "We did it!", but as depressing as this is, it wasn't entirely meaningless. The NHL and NHLPA did manage to agree to a 50/50 split, even if they were unable to agree over what, exactly, that means.
Either way, now we wait for the inevitable next batch of cancellations. Will it include the Winter Classic?