Source: Tentative CBA deal could be reached

January 5, 2013, 2:41 PM

A source has informed Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos that a tentative deal between the National Hockey League and its Players’ Association could be reached within 24 hours.

The U.S. federal mediator convinced the parties to resume face-to-face discussions on Saturday afternoon and the talks ended up continuing well into Sunday morning. In fact, they were still going strong at 4 a.m. ET — roughly 15 hours after the session began at a midtown Manhattan hotel.

Not only was it the latest and longest a meeting had run during these negotiations, it came with some hope that a season-saving deal was in the offing. However, there was still clearly work to be done.

"(There’s been) lots of meetings, some progress," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email midway through the session. "The parties are both working hard to get things resolved."

Sources also indicated to Kypreos that the NHL moved up a proposed salary cap from $60 million to $62.5 million for the 2013-14 season with the cap floor being at $44 million.

Previously the NHL had insisted the cap top out at $60 million, while the players wanted it to be at $65 million.

Another positive step has appeared to be resolved as Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports the pension issue is no longer a stumbling block.

Shannon also reports there are two or three stumbling blocks that are preventing a deal from being reached and the salary cap is at the top of that list.

Meantime, the players are believed to have restored their executive board’s authority to declare a "disclaimer of interest" in a ballot that wrapped up Saturday night. The first such vote passed overwhelming last month and the same result was expected again, although the NHLPA elected not to disclose the results.

The "disclaimer of interest" gives the 30-member committee the ability to dissolve the union, which would open the door for antitrust lawsuits and bring even more uncertainty to the bargaining process. However, it was an option the NHLPA was only believed to be interested in pursuing if talks hit another snag.

Beckenbaugh spent two days with the NHL and NHLPA in November and another two days in December. He has also been present for talks all week and witnessed first-hand as the process was briefly halted after the NHLPA let the first "disclaimer of interest" deadline pass just before midnight on Wednesday night.

At that point, negotiations stalled and the sides had to spend Thursday morning in a small group meeting working through an issue relating to penalties for teams failing to properly report hockey-related revenue. The union was angered by a change to the language from the expired CBA, which was eventually ironed out but led to more mistrust at the bargaining table.

That’s when the deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service stepped in, becoming familiar with the three-block walk between the league office and NHLPA’s hotel during almost 13 hours of meetings on Friday.

Beckenbaugh, who was also part of talks during the NHL’s 2004-05 lockout, went one step further by getting them back in the same room a day later.

The sides are seeking to reach an agreement that would allow training camps to open by Jan. 12 and salvage a shortened 48-game season.

There was also said to be an outside possibility they could squeeze in a couple more than that if a deal was reached soon — an interesting proposition both for players, who are losing almost US$30,000 on average per game, and owners who are losing more.

The lockout hit its 112th day on Saturday, making it the second longest labour dispute in NHL history. It remains the only North American sports league to see an entire season cancelled due to a lockout.

With files from Canadian Press

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