NHL cancels games through Dec. 30
The NHL on Monday canceled games through Dec. 30, but many of the Penguins are preparing as though a deal between the league and Players' Association is imminent.
Eleven players — the most since early October — were present for a high-intensity, physical workout at Southpointe. It was the most physical workout the players have held since beginning the sessions in September, a sign that they possibly are bracing for the beginning of the season.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik joined his teammates for the first time. He remains miffed about comments from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who said contract length demands are “a hill” the NHL will “die on.”
“I think it's been tough to identify what their hill is,” Orpik said. “It's changed throughout the whole process. That's been one of the tougher things to figure out. Some guys refer to it as a moving target. That's probably a good comparison.”
While the sides appear close to an agreement regarding the division of league revenue, contract lengths have become a sticking point.
The NHL doesn't want a contract to exceed five years.
“At one point,” Orpik said, “it seemed like it was the money. Then they were willing to forego all the contracting rights. Then the switch kind of flipped, and now it's contracting stuff. In September, everyone thought it was settled if money was taken care of.”
The high attendance at Southpointe and the physical nature of the workout indicates the players are hopeful.
“Trying to draw a conclusion of when it will be over, I think you drive yourself crazy,” Orpik said.
Daly said in an email that he expected talks with the union to resume this week, but he did not reveal a site and said nothing was finalized.
NHLPA officials said the union wants to meet with the NHL as soon as possible.
Unlike last week, the next round of bargaining is likely not going to include owners and players.
Daly will be joined by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, with Don and Steve Fehr representing the NHLPA. Lawyers for both sides likely will be involved.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.