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NHL, NHLPA continue productive lockout talks ahead of their self-imposed deadlines

Greg Wyshynski
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It’s no surprise that the NHL and the NHL Players Association have put on their big boy pants and are having substantive talks in New York City as the calendar turns to 2013. Deadlines’ll do that to a work stoppage.

The NHL’s self-imposed deadline is for a Jan. 19 start to a truncated, 48-game season; a number that Commissioner Gary Bettman has termed the minimum for a viable regular season, although that’s the League’s math. Give fans 20 games and an expanded postseason, and only those on the outside looking in would cry about the integrity of what’s already a corrupted campaign.

The NHLPA’s self-imposed deadline is midnight on Wednesday night, which is when it can choose to act on its disclaimer of interest – dissolving the union, and potentially forcing the NHL into a series of prickly battles over anti-trust status.

“It’s not something we’re focused on,” said Bettman on Tuesday night after the last round of talks.

So both sides are flashing their pressure points, with a bit more urgency on the NHL side to get things done – or at least make enough progress to derail the NHLPA’s disclaimer of interest gambit.

For the few of you still keeping score at home: The NHL gave the NHLPA a comprehensive offer late last week, and the union responded with a counteroffer on Monday. The NHL then countered that counteroffer with a counteroffer that countered the counter, which the NHLPA is reviewing on Tuesday night to see how they’ll counter that counter. Everyone got that?

The good news, as Bettman put it, was that there’s been a give-and-take by the two sides in the talks.

“In our response, there were certain things that the Players Association asked for that we agreed to. There were some things that we moved in their direction. And there were other things that we said ‘no’. But that’s part of the process,” he said.

“We’re clearly not done yet.”

Renaud Lavoie of RDS reports that the NHLPA has agreed in principle to a 10-year term on the next CBA, in exchange for the NHL moving on issues like revenue sharing. The assumption has been there would be an out for the NHLPA in Year 8 of that term.

As Dave Shoalts points out, there are still major issues between the sides:

In the offer they made last week, the owners called for a pro-rated $70-million cap for whatever length this season is, with the cap dropping to $60-million in 2013-14. Both sides have already agreed to a 50-50 share of league revenue and the $60-million cap is based on the $3.3-billion in revenue the NHL earned in 2011-12, albeit split 50-50 with the players.

The players have apparently asked for a cap of $67-million in 2013-14 and they want the owners to cap their escrow payments at no more than 10 per cent of their annual salaries.

One suggested compromise could see the owners agree to cap escrow at 10 per cent as long as the players agree to their term limits on contracts and accept a 10-year agreement. It is thought the players may accept a contract variance of 10 per cent.

More talks on Wednesday morning between the sides, as both of their clocks tick. Here are Fehr and Bettman:

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And Bettman:

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