After three days of talks and decent progress toward ending the now 112 day lockout, the NHL and NHLPA brought federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh back into the talks on Thursday to try and keep the ball moving forward and help facilitate an agreement on the unresolved issues between the two sides.
Although negotiations appeared to lose some steam on Thursday, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun the two sides have reached agreement on the following issues:
-The NHLPA agreed to the length of the CBA which will be 10 years, something the NHL wanted. The players will have the option to opt out of the CBA after year 7, something the NHLPA wanted.
-The NHL agreed to the NHLPA's request to allow each franchise two salary cap compliance buyouts instead of one which the league had previously proposed. Each franchise will be permitted to buy out as many as two player contracts in order comply with the post-lockout salary cap for the 2013-2014 season which will be lower than the $70 million cap for the 2012-2013 season.
-In a curious move, the NHL agreed to a salary variance on contracts of up to 30 percent, up rather dramatically from the 5 percent and 10 percent previously proposed by the league. The tighter salary variance was supposed to prevent teams from back-loading long term contracts to players in an effort to get around the salary cap.
The league may be agreeing to this variance because it is going to hold firm on its proposed maximum contract length of six years for free agents and seven years if a team is re-signing its own player(s), whereas the players are said to want a maximum length of eight years.
The good news for hockey fans is that neither side has shut down the negotiating process. Statements made by both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA excecutive director Donald Fehr have been very vanilla and have stuck to the process. Neither has seen fit to chastise the other side in public and neither side has expressed any "outrage", real or staged, with the other.
The best news is that the negotiations are continuing.
The bad news is that there are still a lot of issues left to be decided. Primary among them are the previously mentioned length of contract issue as well as the salary cap for '13-'14. The biggest issue still unresolved between the two sides though appears to be how player pensions will be funded. The league wants pensions to be funded from the players share of Hockey Related Revenue.
The league's deadline to be able to salvage a 48-game regular season and a full schedule of playoffs is January 11. Look for these negotiations to go down to the wire. Diehard fans want to be optimistic that this can be settled in the next six days but realistically, the odds are 50-50 at best. More will be written in the blog about these negotiations in the coming days.