Dreger: NHL and NHLPA believe there's a deal to be made

Darren Dreger

10/20/2012 1:20:21 AM

Both the National Hockey League and the players left Thursday's discussions feeling jilted.

The players were upset because the league took only minutes to consider their three alternative proposals, while the NHL was bent out of shape because the union didn't embrace the offer made by the owners on Tuesday.

And the temperature in these negotiations has risen.

But that's part of the process.

Both sides believe there is a deal to be made. Some on the union's side predict a resolution sometime in November, while the NHL remains firm that Oct. 25 is its breaking point in maintaining an 82-game regular season.

Although NHL commissioner Gary Bettman used words like 'setback' and 'total disappointment' to describe the latest round, others around league headquarters are more optimistic - given the players' willingness to accept a 50-50 revenue split.

There's strong belief that if common ground can be found on the systemic issues such as revenue sharing, free agency, salary arbitration, entry-level restrictions and contract length, the 'make whole' concept the NHL put together earlier this week can be mutually molded to close the deal.

This would require The Big Four - Bettman, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and the Fehr brothers - to focus on a common goal. And it may be too early for that.

It may also require the owners to fund much of the protection plan - and it's undoubtedly too early for that.

If so, other options such as a phase-in giving the players a 53 per cent share in Year 1, or an escrow cap will have to be considered to keep the negotiations alive.

Both owners and players are growing weary of the chest pounding and day by day the pressure on both sides to get a deal done is building.

Another round of games have been cancelled…and this year's Winter Classic at The Big House won't be far behind.

Beyond that, another wiped out season will become a real possibility.