Both sides look committed to making deal

NEW YORK -- These two sides desperately want to make a deal.

That much is clear after a second day of marathon meetings, because things nearly blew up Wednesday evening, but the NHL and NHLPA did not take their toys and go home. Instead they turned the other cheek, persevered and kept at it until nearly 1 a.m. ET Thursday.

And talk they did, in serious, serious form. One source in the room felt the sides could be close to a deal, though another also from the room said it would easily still fall apart when talks resume Thursday.

Everyone I spoke with agreed on one thing in the early hours of Thursday morning: Things remain at a very delicate stage.

There were some key moves on the league’s side in an attempt to bridge the gap:

  • Raising the total money in its Make Whole provision to $300 million from the previous offer of $211 million. This is a key move, to say the least.

  • League backs off contracting-rights demands on unrestricted free agency age (27) and salary arbitration, offering to keep both the same;

  • However, the league stays firm on five-year term limits for contracts and 5 percent salary variance; the only exception is that when a team re-signs its own free agent it could go to seven years in term.

  • League wants 10-year term on CBA (union has asked for five-year term).

Now the ball is in the NHLPA’s court. As NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told a weary bunch of reporters around 1:25 a.m. ET Thursday, the league awaits the players’ response within the day.

First things first: The union will reassemble internally Thursday morning and figure out what its next move is.

I still believe the contract term limit remains a tough pill to swallow for the players. I think all along they believed the league would pull that off the table at the 11th hour. But it hasn’t happened. At least not yet.

If you’re the players, though, you’ve got $300 million now in Make Whole money, which frankly was the total I think the union was eyeing when it asked for $383 million two weeks ago. That was an obvious attempt in my mind to get the owners to respond by meeting them halfway from $211 million. Well, now they have.

There’s obviously a significant divide on the term of the CBA. It’s pretty clear the owners feel if they’re going to fork out $300 million in money up front over the first few years of the deal, they want a great benefit of a 50-50 split in revenues long term.

A lot to chew on for the players overnight.

And while both sides were holding their breath in the early hours of Thursday morning thinking that this thing could still blow up, the fact that it didn’t when it easily could have tells me the owners and players who are logging these long bargaining hours don’t want to leave New York City without a deal.

Let’s hope they get what they came for.