Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

No talks but lots of mediation, other NHL lockout action

NEW YORK — The league and the locked-out players association met separately with a federal mediator for almost 13 hours Friday with no sign they would return to face-to-face bargaining soon.

Mediator Scot Becken­baugh shuttled between the sides in different locations until about 10:45 p.m. Both told him they had a bit of room to move on issues still open in negotiations for a labor deal, ESPN reported.

Mediation was scheduled to continue at 10:30 a.m. today.

Tonight at 6 is the scheduled completion of the union's second vote on whether to give its executive board the authority to file a disclaimer of interest, which would allow the union to dissolve and become a trade association.

After one day of the two-day vote, the union had received the support needed for a disclaimer filing, Canada's Sportsnet reported Friday.

The first vote, last month, overwhelmingly approved such a filing, but the union let its self-imposed filing deadline of midnight Wednesday pass without action. Some believed that was a sign it was encouraged by the way the negotiations were going.

But things turned more acrimonious Thursday, the New York Post reported. Commissioner Gary Bettman told players in bargaining sessions "a number of" general managers regret some of the player contracts they signed and wouldn't mind dismantling their teams to meet the $60 million salary cap the league wants for 2013-14.

The players want a $65 million cap next season so the cut from this season's $70.2 million won't be as dramatic.

The players responded with anger and skepticism to Bettman's comment, the Post reported Friday. When they asked Bettman to name the GMs, he refused, it said.

Earlier in the week, the players accused the league of tricky maneuvering regarding changes it made in a previously negotiated provision concerning hockey-related revenue. The league said union lawyers simply had missed the changes, which, after the players objected, were changed back.

Lightning wing B.J. Crombeen, a member of the union's negotiating committee, has not attended this week's sessions but has been briefed on them. He said Friday that whether the league tried something underhanded is "a judgment call the people that were there will have to make."

That said, "it obviously makes it harder to trust and get a deal done," he said. "For us, it's simple. If they want to get a deal done, it's there to get done. If they want to continue to play some games and try to change things that have already been agreed upon and alter things or hide things, all those things aren't helpful to getting a deal done."

The sides have roughly one week to reach a deal that would allow for a 48-game season, the minimum the NHL has said it will play. Bettman set a Jan. 11 deadline for a deal.

"At the end of the day, we've already gone past the point where it will be a good deal for us," Crombeen said of the players. "It's trying to make something we can live with and work with. We're hopeful (the league) can see all the concessions we've made … and they can move off some things that have no economic value or very small economic value to them."

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

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