After yesterday's CBA talks were cancelled, the NHL and NHLPA "mutually decided to reconvene with their negotiating teams" today, when "key economic issues are slated to be back on the table," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "I think system-related proposals and economical proposals are the most critical issues and probably the issues where we have the widest divergence of views currently. I'm all in favour of spending as much time as possible trying to bridge those gaps." Sources said that the NHLPA today "will expand on its proposal as it pertains to rules governing player contracts." Those details "weren't previously included when the players presented their offer last week." Daly said, "I think more than anything else it was to review where we are in the process, where we’ve come from, where we are with the various proposals and to determine how to move the process forward in the best way possible -- hoping and understanding that both sides are committed to using the time left to making a deal as quickly as possible." But Johnston noted "very little progress seemed to be made" (CP, 8/22).
SPINNING THEIR WHEELS? In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless notes NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr yesterday "talked for a few hours until Gary Bettman cleared his throat and got to the bones of the issue: Are the players willing to bargain on the economic issues of today's NHL?" Fehr “took the question under advisement and the two sides broke apart for the day.” Lawless writes what is "becoming increasingly clear is the NHL and its union agree they are far apart and can't decide if they are too distant to begin negotiating or if there is an opening for dialogue." A source said, "There's no sense sitting in a room if no one is going to say anything. We need to find out if we have anything to talk about" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 8/23). Fehr said, "You could probably observe that there is some degree of frustration between the parties." But Daly said that there "were 'no cross words,' in yesterday's session, nor any suggestion the sides were arguing 'apples and oranges,' from their initial proposals" (N.Y. POST, 8/23). Fehr: "The gulf that separates us is triggered essentially by the owners' position that the players have to make enormous concessions, far more than they did last time -- and what they did last time was stunningly large" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 8/23). Bruins G Tuukka Rask said, "I thought when I read the proposal that we made, it made sense and it was a pretty smart move." Bruins D Dennis Seidenberg: "We stand together as a players' union and we'll fight for what we think is fair." (BOSTON HERALD, 8/23).
DON'T READ TOO MUCH INTO IT: SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote, "Had Wednesday morning's talks signaled a breakdown between the two sides, surely they would not be planning to meet again Thursday." While Fehr said that it "would not be 'conducive' to try to characterize whether there was progress, it is clear the league and union know what their next step is" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/22). In Ottawa, Ken Warren writes, "Good news? Bad news? At this point, it's hard to say whether the path toward a new collective bargaining agreement is any more positive or negative than last week" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 8/23). In Columbus, Aaron Portzline writes of the cancelled talks, "neither side portrayed it as a setback" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/23). In St. Louis, Jeremy Rutherford writes, "The postponement of Wednesday's NHL's collective-bargaining negotiations continued to highlight the gap between the league and NHL Players' Association, and the emotions that are growing as a result of their differences." But it also could "be argued that Wednesday's development proves how the league and union remain in the early stages of their talks" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/23). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes there is "no reason for Gary Bettman to fear a lockout, or even the loss of an entire season." History has "already taught him that a year off is good for business." Hockey fans may "be upset, and it may take a while, but they'll all come back eventually." They have "nowhere else to go" (TORONTO STAR, 8/23).
COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE MOVES? The OTTAWA CITIZEN's Warren notes Oilers LW Taylor Hall yesterday signed a seven-year, $42M contract extension, "raising even more eyebrows," as 15 players since July 1 have "signed contracts of six seasons or more." The long-term deals are "intriguing, considering that the original proposal from the NHL's bargaining committee called for a five-year term limit on contracts." Warren: "If clubs are still operating on a business-as-usual principle, doesn't that hurt the NHL's bargaining position?" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 8/23).