The NHL and its union are expected to hold face-to-face bargaining sessions Tuesday night, as day 108 of the lockout nears its end.
Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, and his team were expected at the NHL offices in Times Square to meet with Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league in the early evening, according to multiple sources. By 7 p.m. they had not arrived and sources indicated the league had not yet indicated they were ready to talk.
On the evening menu are exected to be the final, and most contentious, of the points needed to be worked out in order to avoid a second cancelled season in eight years.
Items are thought to include:
The term of the deal (Bettman wants 10 years with an opt-out for either side at eight, while the players want no more than seven).
Variance (the difference between what a contract pays in its first and later years).
Buy out provisions (that would allow a team to choose one contract and buy it out without counting it against the salary cap).
The size of the cap itself.
League sources indicate Bettman is looking at a cap of $60-million US in the first year of a deal ($70-million pro-rated for what's left of this season), while the players want $67 million.
Escrow itself deals with the holding back of a player’s money during a season until league-wide profits are determined the following summer. If the players as a whole have earned more than an even split of those profits, the monies held in escrow go to the league. If it's less than even, each athlete gets money back.
Multiple sources say the Tuesday meeting will begin with the NHL's response to counter-proposals made by the NHLPA on Monday, in themselves worked of a major, 288-page offer from the league to the union last Thursday night.
Both sides are trying to get a deal done so a 48-game season, the minimum Bettman feels is needed, can begin on Jan. 19. Add in a week of training camp and a day for medicals, and the drop dead date seems to be Jan. 11.
A more pressing time and date, however, could arrive at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday – that’s the deadline for the union to file a disclaimer of interest in court, one that would begin the process of disbanding the union and change the whole tenor of the debate.