Siegel: NHL, NHLPA continue to exchange offers

Jonas Siegel

1/1/2013 11:33:50 PM

MANHATTAN – Another day of CBA bargaining concluded with a careful undercurrent of traction, cautious as it may be 109 days into the lockout.
Clad in jeans and a pale blue sweater, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman emerged from league headquarters shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, following the second consecutive day of face-to-face bargaining with Donald Fehr and the players' association. The two parties met for upwards of 30 minutes, the owners extending a counter-proposal to the most recent offer set forth from the players.
“The fact that we're involved in a continuous process is something I'm glad to see, but we're clearly not done yet,” said Bettman, parked on an emptying sidewalk on Sixth Avenue during a chilly New York night.
Few details have emerged from the recent talks which could be construed as a good sign. Also constructive is a delicate sense that the sparring partners are moving closer together. But considering the unpredictability and absurd nature of the process thus far, nothing is certain and another season remains in doubt.
Following a dark period in negotiations that covered the final few weeks of December, the league concluded 2012 by offering a new and “comprehensive” proposal to the players on Thursday evening, an offer that was countered on Monday afternoon. After studying the contents of that proposal on New Year's Eve and all throughout New Year's Day, the league responded with a counter of its' own.
“In our response there were certain things that the players' association asked for that we agreed to,” Bettman stated coolly and calmly. “There were some things that we moved in their directions and there were other things that we said no, but that's part of the process.”
The parties are seemingly close on revenue sharing and the sticky issue of the players' pension fund, but obstacles still remain. Will the league remain insistent on a $60 million cap for next season? Can the players proceed without a cap on escrow payments? Have the two sides bridged pending gaps on the length of player contracts and CBA term?
Also lingering is a potential disclaimer of interest from the players – dissolving the union – set to expire on January 2nd. Bettman said the league wasn't focused on such a matter, but it remains a possible impediment to negotiations.
The first day of 2013 bargaining began around noon with smaller group meetings and conference calls between the parties, more explanations of what each side was looking for than actual negotiating. Face-to-face talks were then expected to begin shortly before 7 p.m. but were delayed until after 9 p.m. as the league put the final touches on its' latest counter-proposal.
“Now what we have to do is go through the document, try and make some sense out of it, compare it and see what the appropriate thing is to do next,” said Fehr, again refusing to characterize details of the session.
Asked if he sensed traction, Bettman responded carefully with a sliver of optimism.
“There's a process that's ongoing so I'm thankful for that.&rdquo