The NHLPA must try to resume CBA negotiations with the NHL and work out a new collective bargaining agreement that will end the lockout before deciding to dissolve the union.
After about a week of voting, it was reported on Friday by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that the large majority of the players voted to give the union's executive committee the option of filing a disclaimer of interest, which would dissolve the union.
NHLPA vote passes overwhelmingly in favor of enabling Disclaimer of Interest.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 21, 2012
Out of 763 NHL players eligible to vote, 729 cast ballots: 706 in favor of enabling PA to disband, 22 against. No hanging chads. #NHLlockout— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 22, 2012
The NHLPA will not immediately file this disclaimer just because it has the authority to, but since it can now go down that road, it will hopefully result in more meaningful negotiations with the league as the deadline to save the 2012-13 season rapidly approaches.
Unless negotiating fails again and the players are willing to risk losing the season, don't expect a disclaimer of interest to ever be filed.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr is the type of union boss who thrives when he plays a large role in his side's negotiations. However, if the union dissolves, Fehr would no longer represent the players.
The best option for his players is to return to the bargaining table with the NHL just after the Christmas holiday and reach a deal.
For the first time since last Tuesday, direct contact between the NHL and NHLPA. Bill Daly and Steve Fehr spoke today.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) December 22, 2012
Don't be surprised if the talks between the 2 sides resume as early as the 26th or 27th, at the latest. #NHLLockout— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) December 23, 2012
Since the union must decide whether or not to go down the disclaimer of interest route by January 2 (via Tom Gulitti of The Record), the players have a bit more leverage in negotiations, but it probably won't be enough to force the owners to move much off their recent proposal.
In all likelihood, the players will have to move toward the owners on player contract term limits, salary variance and CBA term for a deal of any kind to be made.
The players don't have to agree to all of the league's demands on these three issues, but they need to go closer to the NHL on these important topics for any deal to be done soon.
If the union makes these moves, then the NHL might bend on other issues that haven't been agreed to yet, some of which may include the transition from the old CBA to the new one.
Getting back to the negotiating table and trying to work out a new deal that would prevent this lockout from going to the courts is the best decision that the league and its players can make right now.
The best way to get a fair deal is to resume negotiating, but now that the union has another option to consider if negotiations break down again, hopefully the NHL is more willing to negotiate off its latest CBA proposal and not give the players a take-it-or-leave-it option only.