Time is becoming short to get a deal in place.
The NHL and NHLPA "have each other's numbers" (via CSNWashington.com), but that is about as far as any meaningful discussions have gone after negotiations went nowhere yesterday.
The League issued a "proposal to save an 82-game season" (via NHL.com), but when the NHLPA came back with multiple offers, they were quickly turned down in what Commissioner Gary Bettman called "a step backward" from the League's offer.
So will the NHL or NHLPA ever come up with an offer that the other side can agree to?
The answer is a resounding "no," as far as this year is concerned.
Here are four reasons why:
When the season ended in June with the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup, the NHL and NHLPA had an opportunity to sit down and try to hammer out a deal prior to a lockout.
This did not happen and both sides avoided each other for the week leading up to the lockout. That silence lasted almost two weeks before the sides started talking again.
That was late September.
We're getting into late October, and with the NHL rejecting the Players Association's proposals yesterday, that leaves just over a week before training camps have to start for an 82-game season to be feasible (according to Bettman, anyway).
After this window closes, the "cancelled" games—that are only postponed at this point—will start to actually be cancelled.
As Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal pointed out, the NHL actually "cancelled zero games" with today's announcement.
Don't read into that too much, as a lot of things still need to happen for a season to start by November 2.
Right now, there is just not enough time to get a deal done, despite what either side may tell the media.
In the video above, Gary Bettman called the League's most recent offer "their best offer."
He said that the League was prepared to make "tweaks and adjustments," but this doesn't suggest any substantial changes in the League's deal.
Fans might have said "finally!" when the League caved and settled on a 50/50 split, but the NHLPA head, Donald Fehr, had other ideas when the NHLPA was presented with that deal.
The NHLPA used this as a springboard of sorts for their three offers, which were summed up fairly well by TSN's Aaron Ward on Twitter:
NHLPA offers,big picture- 1)Set dollar values in Years 1-2-3 for player compensation.Years 4-5,value set at whatever is higher(50% of HRR...or year 3 number) and 50/50 in effect. 2)Players hang on to current compensation BUT only take 24.7% of all growth.At NHL estimated growth...of 5%,over 5 years you get to 50/50. 3) Day 1 starts at 50/50,remove 12.28% only to SET cap,benefits,escrow (estimated 87%) number only.
— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) October 18, 2012
Essentially, the NHL and NHLPA have different ways of getting to the same end result.
The players would like set dollar amounts for years 1-3 of their contract, while the owners would like it to be a "make whole" proposal (via NHL.com).
Either way you look at it, the NHL is in trouble when it comes to lengthy contracts.
Whether it is Kovalchuk in New Jersey, Luongo in Vancouver (for now), Parise and Suter in Minnesota or Hossa in Chicago, teams will be hit hard with how these contracts are set up in the future.
While the new CBA proposal from the League aims at punishing a few teams who have violated the CBA, players will largely be indifferent to this fact (via EdmontonJournal.com).
What the players will care about is the limitation of contracts to five-year terms (via NHL.com).
Contract length can provide security to players like Suter and Parise, who are seeking a way to put down roots with a team. Combine these long-term contracts with the no-trade clauses that some of these players have been given and the combination is deadly for the GMs of those teams.
Contract length will have to be revisited before the players sign off on any deal, as five years apparently just isn't enough for some players.
In the last lockout, the players made a lot of concessions, such as a 24 percent rollback in salaries league-wide.
After the expiration of the CBA this time, the players looked in their wallets and found just what Gary Bettman said they had in the video in Slide 2.
According to Bettman, the average contract value has gone up by about $1 million over the last seven years.
That means players can sit on their hands for a while, because they have more money in their pockets. Ideally, the players want to get back to work, but they will not be taken for more money by the owners this time around.
Some players like Danny Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings have stated (via the Detroit Free Press) that the lockout may be a year or longer.
That should be the most discouraging sign as far as fans are concerned. The owners and players are so close on many regards, but in others, they are miles apart.
Combine the distance on key issues with the fact that time is quickly becoming of the essence, and fans shouldn't be surprised to see the NHL lose yet another full season to a lockout.