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Goaltender Roberto Luongo issued a tweet on Sunday that said: “So (what) do we do now?”
Many Toronto fans may be asking the same question after months of speculation over whether the veteran goaltender with the 12-year contract will be joining the Maple Leafs from the Vancouver Canucks for the lockout-shortened NHL season.
The players emerged from the room around midnight and scurried down the hotel escalator past reporters, unwilling to share much, if anything.
The smiles on some of their faces, however, suggested it wasn’t a bad day at all.
As one player would later share via text message to ESPN.com, “There was certainly traction. But I don’t want to say more.”
That cautious optimism — the key word being cautious — was on full display when NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA outside counsel Steve Fehr stood shoulder to shoulder in a joint media availability after the marathon sessions, Fehr calling it possibly the best day in the entire process, while Daly nodded in agreement.
But other than that, both sides were tight-lipped. Like a pitcher working on a no-hitter through six innings, it’s too early to get too excited.
I’d be ready to say this, however: I’m willing to bet there’s a far greater chance of hockey this season than not after Tuesday’s developments.
At the center of this fragile momentum is the presence of the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by reclusive billionaire owner Ron Burkle, who shined brightly in talks Tuesday, according to sources, the players receptive to his tone.
Burkle’s first appearance in labor talks comes at a critical time in the process, with both sides having tried nearly everything else — mediation, large group meetings, small group meetings, etc.
After an awkward, five-month exit from the St. Louis Blues as president of hockey operations, John Davidson finally became a free agent yesterday when his contract buyout was completed.
Don’t expect him to stay on the market long, even though the NHL is mired in a frigid lockout.
“If the phone rings, I’ll listen,” Davidson said. “That (Blues) chapter is closed. Now we open another one.”
Davidson, an NHL goaltender, broadcaster and executive during a 40-year career in the league, said he wanted to secure his departure from St. Louis before he began looking for his “next challenge.”
He did not rule out joining the Blue Jackets’ hockey operations department. Actually, he sounded quite intrigued by it, recalling a meeting on May 29 that he had with Blue Jackets majority owner John P. McConnell and president Mike Priest.
“The only team I’ve met with during this process is the Blue Jackets,” Davidson said. “And that was good. That was real good. I’d meet with them again, absolutely. We had a very productive discussion, just sharing thoughts and getting an understanding for what they feel about their franchise.
Well, it’s Day 9 of the NHL lockout, and there remains a distinct lack of urgency from the league and the NHLPA.
Even with 61 preseason games (and probably 1 per cent of hockey-related revenues) already wiped out, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have had hardly any negotiating sessions, prolonging a stalemate that appears its headed for at least December.
So if they’re not going to sit down and hammer this thing out, we’ll have to step in and act as an impartial mediator by putting together a compromise for both sides.
(In case you haven’t seen it, the two proposals currently on the table are spelled out in detail here.)
Those offers put the two sides at least $1-billion apart depending on how league revenues grow over the coming years, but there is a deal to be had somewhere in the middle of all this.
And the answer to how to settle this thing is with a new agreement neither side is going to like all that much.
Step 1: Let the players keep the $1.87-billion they earned last season – and not a penny more.
The union’s offer comes with a 2 per cent raise in Year 1, but it’s become clear in negotiations that that’s just not going to fly.
And the league wants players to take a big pay cut via escrow next season that won’t work either.
The players have dug in on this one, and it’s really not too much to ask in Year 1 of the deal. If NHL revenues grow at 6.3 per cent (which is roughly what they’ve averaged the last eight years minus the effects of the Canadian dollar), that $1.87-billion will drop the players’ share to 53.6 per cent.
And it’ll slowly trail down from there.
Trade Man is on holiday for another week or so. After that regular updates will resume as normal.