Intrepid reporters Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and Katie Strang are trying to stay warm while monitoring the NHL-NHLPA talks from frigid New York, while ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance is working the phones from Detroit. Here's their take on the chances we see a new CBA before the end of the week.
BURNSIDE: Call me Dr. Pollyanna but I still think this gets done, if not Wednesday, then Thursday. I don't see the NHLPA filing a disclaimer of interest and I think both sides understand that there is too much at stake to let it go down the tubes at this point in the process. To lose a second full season in eight years is unthinkable and I think both sides get that and get a deal done.
CUSTANCE: The players can let Wednesday night's disclaimer deadline pass in a show of good faith, but it wouldn't take long to scramble and set up another vote that would give the executive committee the ability to dissolve the union at a later date. I say the two sides keep talking, following the same pattern of progress, followed by setback before a Friday breakthrough.
LeBRUN: The two sides are closer than they've ever been to getting a deal done, and if cooler heads prevail, it could certainly get done over the next few days. However, the potential for one final push back definitely exists. The pension snag (the two sides held another small group session on pensions Wednesday morning) must be overcome to get a deal done. The NHL moved a few key issues in its new counter Tuesday night, but not all the way to the NHLPA's liking. So the question will be: When will both sides feel they've finally hit the middle ground and that each side can't move further? As much as Wednesday night's midnight deadline for the disclaimer is acting as a pressure point, I still think the league's Jan. 11 deadline to get a deal done is also a factor, one which could act to give each side a feeling that they can push just a bit more before the 11th hour. But in the end, whether it's over the next 48 hours or closer to Jan. 11, I feel a deal gets done and we have a shortened season.
STRANG: I wouldn't be fulfilling my duty as resident skeptic if I didn't predict things go off the rails Wednesday. Yes, we can interpret the fact the two sides have swapped three proposals in the past six days as progress, but I think trust between the league and union continues to erode, thanks to the snag on pensions Tuesday. Although I don't think the union will resort to filing a disclaimer of interest, I predict negotiations will go sideways for at least a few days, beginning Wednesday. I still believe a deal gets done, but not without at least one more hiccup.