NHL plans to withdraw proposal

Updated: October 25, 2012, 11:09 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The NHL will withdraw its latest proposal to the NHL Players' Association after Thursday's deadline passed without a new deal in place.

There were no talks held again Thursday and none have been held since last week's NHL proposal and counter-proposals from the NHLPA.

"When we delivered the proposal last Tuesday, we told them it would be on the table through today," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Thursday afternoon. "Having not reached agreement through today, I expect that we'll formally notify the union Friday that the proposal is no longer on the table. We're going to take it back internally and figure out where we go from here."

The league will officially notify the union it's withdrawing its offer sometime Friday morning.

Daly was also quick to stress that he wasn't threatening the players in any way, but underlying what the league expressed to the NHLPA last week when it delivered the proposal.

"This proposal no longer works because it was a proposal to save 82 games," Daly said. "We have to re-think where we are, and what type of season we're looking at, and we have to formulate and construct a proposal that makes sense for the reality of where we are."

Since rejecting the union's trio of offers in Toronto last Thursday, the league has maintained that they will not meet unless the NHLPA agrees to work off their last proposal, which included a 50/50 revenue split and a provision to "make whole" existing player contracts by using deferred payments.

Earlier this week, the union's attempt to re-ignite negotiations -- the NHLPA requested a meeting with the league without preconditions Tuesday night -- was spurned.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said he was not surprised the league said it would withdraw the offer.

"This is a standard approach. I think it was done in the NBA in the same way," Fehr told ESPN.com Thursday. "Review the history here: They make a proposal, it's essentially a take it or leave it, we respond on the core economics, they take 10 minutes and say no. They tell all the players if we're agreeable to everything except the Make Whole (provision), including all the stuff that's in there, I can give Gary a telephone call. And then we have made several efforts, including yesterday, to say we're prepared to sit down and negotiate with no pre-conditions. They essentially said 'No.'

"It takes two to negotiate. They seem to be really good at imposing deadlines and issuing ultimatums and having lockouts. It seems to be something they're well-practiced at."

The offer -- which was a six-year offer with a mutual option for a seventh year -- also featured five-year long-term contract limits, strict constraints on back-diving deals, two-year entry-level contracts and unrestricted free agency at age 28 or after eight years pro.

What's next? More NHL games will no doubt get canceled.

"Obviously those decisions are imminent and we're going to have to do what we have to do," said Daly.

While Daly would not say exactly, it's expected the NHL will cancel games for all of November on Friday.

The Winter Classic and All-Star Game are not expected to be part of that announcement, although they could be axed as early as next week.

Asked about the danger of losing the annual outdoor game, commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday that a decision will be "very soon."

"I'm not going to give you an exact timetable, but at some point in November," he said. "We will have to commit many millions of dollars to get ready for the Winter Classic, so if there's still uncertainty, we're going to have to make a decision and my guess is, we're not going to commit those dollars unless we have certainty."

Once more games are canceled, it obviously diminishes the chances of playing a full season, although it's not entire impossible if a deal can be reached as early as next week.

"The object is to get a settlement as soon as it's possible to get one and to play as much up to 100 percent of the season as much as it's physical to play," Fehr said. "That obviously is going to be the objective or at least it always has been on the players' side."

Fehr reiterated his much-repeated stance that the NHL has not offered anything that would appease any player to sign off on a deal.

"It's pretty difficult, quite frankly, to come to a conclusion as to what in the world the owners expected the players to do given the positions that they took. Remember, it's massive concessions last time, enormously increased revenues, no real articulation of why they want what they want except that somebody got it in the other sports, they mumble about fair opportunity to make a profit everywhere but there's no specifics attached to that," he said. "... So when we ask the question to players, when they ask it of me, when we ask it across the table, when we ask it to people in your business (media), what is there in this deal for the players? Everybody sort of looks up at the stars and scratches their heads and no answers come forth. So it's hard to figure out. Maybe this is all part of an orchestrated approach."

ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang contributed to this report.

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