The NHL and NHL Players' Association have been in new negotiations since last Thursday, attempting to strike a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. Since the league offered a new comprehensive proposal last Thursday, the NHLPA has fired back with two separate counterproposals of its own, yet a deal still hasn't been reached as the NHL lockout enters its 110th day.
Although an agreement has remained allusive thus far, the two sides may be closer to one another than they've been since the lockout began on Sep. 16. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said, via Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News,
"the parties moved closer together on some issues, there is still a ways to go if an agreement can be reached."
The fact that the two sides are talking at all is positive news of its own. The league and players' union hadn't held face to face negotiations since talks fell apart on Dec. 6.
The major issues between the sides seem to change from month to month, as some issues have been agreed upon and others still remain a problem. The Associated Press reports Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the league moved in the players' direction in some areas, but that other areas still remain an issue.
"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," Bettman said. "That's part of the process."
The Associated Press also reports that Bettman said Monday the NHL has told the players' union that an agreement must be reached by Jan. 11 in order to fit a shortened 48 game season in, otherwise the entire season will likely be lost. The NHL's deadline leaves both sides with a limited amount of time to come to terms on a new deal. If a new deal is struck by that date, a shortened regular season would likely start on Jan. 19.
Two of the bigger sticking points, according to reports, are players' pension plan, and the salary cap drop. The NHL's latest public proposal set the salary cap limit at $60 million for next year. The players' union wants a higher number, as this seasons cap limit was scheduled to be at $70.2 million. The pension plan issue must also be resolved before a deal can be finalized.
The NHLPA recently voted in favor of a "disclaimer of interest" after the league filed two separate labor motions against them. A "disclaimer of interest" would mean the union would no longer represent the players, opening up the possibility for them to individually sue the league for antitrust violations. The NHLPA had a Wednesday night deadline to officially file the "disclaimer of interest", but that deadline passed as they continued negotiations with the league. The NHLPA still holds the option to "disclaim interest" at a later date, pending a whole new vote by the players.
All games through Jan. 14 have already been canceled. The lockout has now claimed a total of 625 regular season games, accounting for over 50 percent of the original 2012-2013 schedule. If a deal is not in place by the NHL's Jan. 11 deadline, the league would likely be forced to cancel the remainder of the season. The NHL played an abbreviated 48-game season in 1995 due to a labor dispute between owners and players, and remains the only North American league to have lost an entire season due to a labor dispute after the 2004-2005 season was canceled.
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