There's no doubt NHL players want to participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
"Everyone wants to go to the Olympics," said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who'd likely be on Sweden's roster.
But the players' union wasn't willing to sacrifice three more years of negotiating rights on the next collective bargaining agreement in order to go. The NHL's latest offer of allowing players' participation in the Olympics for pushing the CBA's out clause to 2023 was rejected this week.
"It was pretty unanimous around the league," said wing Alex Killorn, the Lightning's union rep. "For guys to represent their country is a huge thing, and I think the NHL likes to use that as a negotiating tactic. Hopefully we can work out something so both parties can benefit."
This issue will likely be discussed further at next week's NHL Board of Governors meeting in Palm Beach. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he'd like a decision on Olympics participation to be made by January.
The most significant roadblock, from the league's perspective, is the International Olympic Committee's refusal to pick up costs for lodging, travel and insurance for NHL players. Knowing players want to go to the 2018 Olympics - Capitals star Alex Ovechkin said he'd go even without NHL permission - the league tried to leverage three extra years of the current CBA in their pitch to the players. The players biggest issue is with escrow, which takes around 15-percent of their salary to ensure the owners and players get a 50-50 split of revenue.
"These are our careers," Killorn said. "You want to make the most out of what you make. We want a fair deal. Owners realize they're doing pretty well with escrow. Them trying to extend (the CBA) kind of shows their hand. It's not a bad play by them. But at what cost to go to the Olympics?
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has won Gold medals for Canada both as a player and executive, said there are real issues to be worked out, but he's hopeful the NHL participates in the Olympics.
"I think it's fantastic for our sport," Yzerman said. "I think it's great for our league that we go, and we're there. I think for all the players it's an honor to be part of the Olympics. I'm hopeful they can work it out. It's great for our league and great for the game."