August 10, 2022

NHL Trade Deadline: All quiet on the Washington Capitals front?

What happens if you throw a party and no one comes? The NHL might be about to find out.

The NHL Trade Deadline is Wednesday at 3:00 pm, but thus far there’s been less action than at a Fancy Stat convention. The same holds true at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where the Washington Capitals practiced in advance of the deadline. And by the looks of it, it’ll be as quiet here as it has been all around the league so far.

Mike Ribeiro - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Ribeiro – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Caps biggest trade chip, UFA Mike Ribeiro, did not practice in the Caps optional practice this morning, but he did meet the media. And if he’s a guy that had any inkling that he was about to be traded, he must be the world’s greatest poker player. He was very relaxed with the media and indicated a strong opinion that he would neither be traded — nor re-signed — by Caps GM George McPhee today.

“I don’t really see myself moved or signed today,” Ribeiro said matter of factly.

The veteran center was much more focused on the Caps game Thursday night against the Islanders as they continue to re-insert themselves into serious playoff contention despite being left for dead several times this season.

“I still have the rest of this year of my contract,” he continued. “Nothing changes. I still have a lot of time after today if they want to sign me or not. For me, it’s to keep playing and make the playoffs and at some point, we can talk and get things done and see where it goes from there.”

In fact, most of the players today seemed to brush off the trade talk. If any of them are concerned about being traded, they didn’t show it, or dismissed it as “part of the game.”

The Caps are in a tough spot, despite being more than $7 million under the salary cap. They have several restricted free agents — notably Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson — that will require a raise for next season. If McPhee decides to hold pat, play out the string and take his lumps either way this season, it’s completely understandable.

The Caps have three options with Ribeiro: trade him for assets and admit to a rebuild, re-sign him to a four or five year contract the player has indicated he will be looking for, or let him play through the season and allow him to walk as a free agent for no compensation. It’s a tough call either way.

Do you give a multi-million deal to a 33 year old who is enjoying a career year, yet is unlikely to come close to earning his paycheck at the end of the deal? Do you break up a team that could very well sneak into the playoffs? Or do you deal him for picks and prospects and weaken an already flawed team?

Only George McPhee can answer these questions, and we’ll find out a little after 3:00 pm today which way he’ll go.

Washington Capitals Game 20 Wrap: Capitals come back, down Bruins in OT

An old friend who returned home this season, Eric Fehr, lifted the Washington Capitals to a miraculous 4-3 comeback win to down the Boston Bruins in overtime on Tuesday in the Verizon Center.

Looking to build off of a commanding 3-0 win over the division rival Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, the Caps welcomed the Bruins to the Verizon center. One of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, Boston entered Tuesdays matchup sitting on top of their division and in second place in the Conference.

The first period was all Bruins and they started to take control of the game early on. With just over six and a half minutes gone by in the first, Boston went to the penalty kill. While defending their net on the disadvantage, Brad Marchand took a breakaway in on Washington netminder Braden Holtby. Alexander Ovechkin, playing the point on the powerplay, was unable to catch up to him and hooked him. Marchand was awarded a penalty shot and scored to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.  [Read more…]

NHL realignment resurfaces with tweaks in the proposal

Saturday night, the fine folks on CBC discussed the latest ideas regarding the necessary realignment of the NHL. It seems there are still a lot of ideas on the table, but there are a couple of vital things the league has to get right this time and there’s some long-range planning that needs to be taken into consideration as well.

First, Detroit and Columbus move east and Winnipeg gets out of the Southeast. The Wings have long wished to play the majority of their games in the Eastern time zone and they will apparently get their wish.

Second, the seasonal scheduling allows for home-and-home games with every team in the opposite conference and puts more division teams in the same time zone, crucial for television scheduling.

Next, the proposal accounts for Divisional playoffs, not based on Conference. This helps generate rivalries and makes for more consistent television scheduling.

Finally, this proposal makes it easy when Phoenix and Florida eventually relocate, most likely to Seattle and Quebec, respectively.

Eventually, the NHL will expand again, adding two more teams to bring the league to 32. They can’t help themselves. They see those franchise fees and it’s like printing money, talent distribution be damned. The player’s union loves expansion too since it adds 50 more jobs. So let’s have some speculative fun!

We’ll assume those Phoenix and Florida moves above. And let’s award our fictional expansion teams to Toronto and Kansas City. Now, imagine the four eight-team divisions:

Orr (Northeast) Howe (East) Hull (Central) Gretzky (West)
Quebec NY Rangers Winnipeg Edmonton
Montreal NY Islanders Minnesota Calgary
Ottawa New Jersey Chicago Vancouver
Boston Philadelphia Columbus Seattle
Toronto 1 Pittsburgh St. Louis San Jose
Toronto 2 Washington Kansas City Los Angeles
Buffalo Carolina Nashville Anaheim
Detroit Tampa Bay Dallas Colorado

 

You’re welcome.

Washington Capitals Game Game 15 Recap: Caps struggle on offense in 2-1 loss to Rangers

If it was not for the outstanding effort by Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, Sunday’s loss to the New York Rangers on the road would not have been close as the 2-1 score would indicate.

Holtby, Washington’s playoff hero last year, has struggled mightily this season but has played well enough to earn himself a string of starts. While he may not have tallied the win, he was challenged early and often by the Rangers facing 40 shots on goal and only let two in. He was clearly the best player on the ice for Washington, if only he could have helped them score too. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Players See No Major Difference in Conditioning in Those Who Went Overseas Yet

A big question at Washington Capitals training camp this week is whether there will be a noticeable difference between those who played overseas and those who stayed, but many at camp on Sunday said they may need to wait until actual games to find out.

It is such a tough stretch for Caps players this week, with the lockout-shortened season only allowing them to have one week to prepare for the NHL season. Not only do they need to learn a new coaching philosophy and acclimate to a new set of players, but they also have to get their legs under them. Of course, every player has to do the first two, but as of right now it doesn’t seem like there is a major difference between players who played overseas and those who stayed in North America, in terms of getting their legs back.

“I probably will get a better indication tomorrow to see how the guys feel the day after,” head coach Adam Oates said after practice. “Some guys played games, some guys have been off a lot, they have been skating. Sometimes the first day your adrenaline gets you through the day.”

Over five different Washington Capitals players played during the NHL lockout. Of the most high profile, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom played in the KHL, while Braden Holtby found himself between the pipes back in Hershey. Meanwhile guys like Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich found work in some of the lesser European leagues and Joey Crabb even played in the ECHL.

Karl Alzner was one of the players who opted not to sign a contract elsewhere and said it was hard to tell the difference between the two groups on the ice.

“I’m trying to think here. I haven’t noticed a whole lot of difference. Maybe come actual game time we’ll see who is still breathing good and who is breathing heavy,” Alzner said. “I know a lot of guys have been saying how tough things have been or might feel like they are breathing a little heavier than normal, but I haven’t seen a lot of huge differences, but that doesn’t become obvious until we actually play.”

With less than a week until their first actual game, some of those guys might not have a ton of time to get that breathing figured out. Ultimately though, it is going to be hard for any player to handicap how others are doing, since they are so concerned with their own fitness and stamina. Holtby, who is able to see the whole ice during practice, echoed that sentiment.

“You know, I might be able to tell in a week or so,” Holtby said. “Right now I am just right now focused on stopping the puck not on other guys too much.”

One of the newest Capitals, Cam Schilling, summed up best how there may not be much of a difference between the two groups of players.

“It helps conditioning-wise, but other than that I think guys have been skating quite a bit,” Schilling said. “It’s just going to take them a couple practices to be completely sharp and everything.”

Whether it will take a couple practices or not to get sharp, that is the only option the Caps have with just five more days of ice time before they head to Tampa on Saturday. If there is an edge to be gained from playing during the lockout, the Caps have it with so many players signing other contracts. As of right now though, the league will just have to wait and see if those who shipped off are truly better off.

For Adam Oates and the Washington Capitals, the Start of the NHL Season is All About Preparation

Washington Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates will only have a limited amount of time to prepare for a grueling 48-game NHL schedule once the CBA is ratified by the NHLPA this weekend, but all indications point to his staff being prepared.

For a first-time head coach, Oates sounded like a veteran who had been holding the reins for years when he spoke to the Washington media prior to the AHL Showcase in December. As an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils the last few seasons, Oates certainly has experience, but many have said he, along with the other new coaches, may struggle because of the limited time for him to prepare.

Good thing for Oates and the Caps though, he has been preparing from the beginning.

“We watch the Hershey games and we talk about it and we’ve watched a little of [the Caps], we pick something different everyday to just to try to stay in our routine,” Oates said. “We talk about it, make sure we are connecting and if [end of the lockout] does happen and it’ll happen quick, we’ll be ready.”

Oates is a former Capital who played center in Washington from 1997 until 2002. With over 18 years of professional experience as a player, including one lockout shortened year, Oates is familiar with how this sort of thing works for the team. Of course, it does not mean he still is not a little up in the air about a few subjects, one of which is his constant concern for his current players and the potential for injuries, something almost inevitable in hockey, while they played overseas.

“You’re glad they’re maybe playing and in shape, but you don’t want them to be developing any bad habits depending on the system their playing or the coach they have, or how intense they are,” Oates said. “And you obviously don’t want them to be hurt.”

The new bench boss was not as lucky as some other teams in the NHL though. Star center Nicklas Backstrom reportedly sustained what has been dubbed a “neck injury” after being checked from behind during a KHL game while playing with Dynamo Moscow. Some have said his classification is “week-to-week” and he is currently scheduled to meet with an undisclosed “specialist” in Michigan this week.

However long he might be out, the loss of Backstrom will hurt — he is clearly the driving force on the top line and the team struggled without him last season. Oates will be pressed into duty early to find his replacement if the talented Swede is sidelined for an extended period of time. As Oates said though, preparation is everything, and he certainly knows what kinds of options he has in the Caps’ system.

While in Hershey he said the hardest part may have been learning his own players, but over time Oates learned what he had at his disposal. Little did he probably know at the time, what he learned may be more crucial to his team’s success than he first expected.

Of course, learning personnel is not the only thing Oates picked during his time in the AHL.

“Tough to kind of put your finger on exactly what I learned. It was more, you know, like last year I was in the finals as an assistant coach standing right there beside the head coach trying to be in his mind and all of the sudden you’re the guy standing right there,” Oates said. “So the speed you know was the same, but just maybe getting used to barking out, talking more than you would as an assistant coach [was a part of the learning.]”

In addition to learning the coaching ropes himself, he used the time to get acclimated to his new coaching staff of Calle Johansson, Tim Hunter and Blaine Forsythe. He talked before the Showcase how he and Johansson used the time to bond together and learn about each other’s coaching styles. It could be a huge source of any early success they may have.

“You know it was funny, I really feel like we think the same way. There would be a lot of times in the game I’d look down there and he is already looking at me because we saw the same play, saw a play the same way, kind of a mental communication there,” Oates said of his time with Johansson. “I think it was good, he hasn’t been on a bench in a while, so I think it was good for us to be together.”

With the start of the season just over a week away, Washington’s hockey subculture will slowly start to come out of their lockout induced hibernation to again return to the Verizon Center to cheer on the home team. Oates will have the Caps prepared just enough, so they are ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. Just about the only thing Oates hasn’t been prepared for though, is how the hockey culture has changed.

“I had to go to a function on Capitol Hill and I could not believe how many people were Caps fans compared to when I was here before where no one would have known you,” Oates said of hockey in Washington. “People just talking about hockey last night, people knew all the names of the players … it is obviously becoming a good event to go to every night and people are excited about it.”

Just wait until he is on the home side of the ice when the fans scream out the first “unleash the fury” of the season.

While the NHL lockout thaws, Verizon Center freezes

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012 (Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

While the NHL’s Board of Governors approved the Memorandum of Understanding with the NHLPA to begin the end of the lockout Wednesday afternoon, 226 miles to the southwest, the crew at Verizon Center was busy putting down the ice surface the Capitals will use this year for the shortened season.

With the boards standing in a nearly empty arena, the crew was walking across the newly-frozen surface to paint and add logos to the playing surface, which was a thin layer of ice with a white water-soluble paint on top of the building’s concrete floor.

“About 5:00 in the morning, they started bringing the floor below like 36 degrees,” Jamie Gibson, Assistant Director of Operations of Verizon Center explained. “And then about 8:30, [we] started putting down coat of water on the concrete to seal the concrete. After we do that a few times, we paint the white, which is a water soluble dump it in the water and it freezes when you put water. And you seal it again with water, and then paint the lines and logos and stuff.”

The blue lines, face-off circles and dots are painted directly on the ice, the center ice line – which the Capitals decorate with stars instead of stripes – and other logos and wordmarks are actually cloth placed on the ice and then covered with water and rolled flat.

Workers placed a small spike in the ice to measure the circles, using a tether to paint the face-off circles. The blue lines were marked with string, and after the two sides were added, a worker using a paint tray and a brush filled it in. After the lines were down, the center ice stripe, Capitals logo and sponsor logos were put into place based on a diagram on a notebook placed on the dasher boards.

While the crew used to paint the entire ice, the cloth logos are reusable, and make putting down the ice faster – but slows down the meltdown process.

“Probably in the last six or seven years, we started using the cloth logos,” Gibson said, “it’s easier, you don’t have as much of a mess. They’re harder to take out, but much easier to put in. … On the ice, it saves a lot of time. Taking it out, it adds a couple of hours. We reuse them. They get hung up and dried, and put them back out the next time we make ice.”

Once the paint and logos are in place, another 10,000 gallons of water are slowly used to build up the ice to an inch’s depth, a surface thick enough to protect the players from reaching the logos and paint. The entire process takes about 24 hours, meaning the ice will be ready to smooth out with the Olympia ice resurfacer.

“We’ll use that Friday to level out the ice,” Gibson said. “When you flood it, the ice is going too freeze the way the water goes, so you’ll end up with ripples on top, we’ll level it, use hot water on it, make it as good as we can. The more you resurface itself, the better it is.”

In a normal year, the crew will build and melt the ice several times in a season, but not this year.

“It depends on the year,” he said. “Some years, we’ve done as many as five. Sometimes you take it out for NCAA [regionals] or the other things, we have the horse show. We have monster trucks, whatever. … We can’t this year. This year’s kind of tight with the season.”

For those curious, Gibson was unaware of any plans to use a “Thank You Fans” logo in the ice as the NHL did following the lockout in the 2005-06 season. The reason is the ice would be down all year and tough to remove.

“There will be none this year,” he said. “They know everybody isn’t going to be taking the ice out, at the beginning of the season they take the ice out, it’s easy to pull those logos out, but with this compact season we’re going to have, they don’t want to put them in.”

Asked about some arenas that have left their ice in since September, such as Los Angeles’ Staples Center and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, Gibson explained it would be expensive for Verizon Center to keep the surface down without any ice events.

“It would be very expensive,” he said. “The compressors would have been running since September with electric use and everything else.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time the ice has been down, as the crew put in the ice for the AHL Showcase back in December. But the rink was quickly melted after the event.

“Depressing,” Gibson recalled. “When you put it for one game, that’s a lot of work for one game. We want it to stay in.”

Gibson has been part of the ice crew since working at the Capital Centre in 1987. While the ice at Verizon Center has been a subject of some criticism by players over the years, he says the ice downtown is much better than the one in Landover.

“It’s much better,” he said. “Newer equipment, much better down here.”

So, while the NHL slowly moves back towards playing a season with the NHLPA expected to ratify their side of the agreement for camp likely starting Sunday and a season starting January 19th, Gibson is back to have hockey back in the building.

“It’s been kind of boring without it,” he said. “It’s great. Happy to have it back.”

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
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Verizon Center, 1/9/2012
(Ted Starkey/District Sports Page)

 

Timeline of Washington Capitals off-season and lockout progression

by Dave Nichols and Ted Starkey

The NHL and NHLPA tentatively agreed on a deal to end the lockout, allowing NHL players to return to their teams in preparation for a shortened 2013 season. With that in mind, we’ll take a look back in timeline form of the off-season news, including transactions that will affect the Washington Capitals on the ice. For, you know, when they actually return to it.

The Caps actually had a pretty significant off-season, what with naming a head coach and completely new coaching staff, trading a prized prospect for that ever-elusive top line center, and signing a reclamation project as a complementary scoring winger.

We’ll have a much more in-depth evaluation of the roster in the coming days, but for now, here’s the story of a much-too-long off-season for the Caps and the NHL.

May 12, 2012 – Capitals lose Game 7 of Eastern Conference Semifinal series 2-1 to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, ending the team’s season.

May 14, 2012 – At Washington’s breakdown day, Capitals coach Dale Hunter announces he won’t return to club.

June 22, 2012 – At the 2012 NHL Draft, Washington acquires center Mike Riberio from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Cody Eakin and the Capitals’ 54th overall selection.

June 26, 2012 – Washington announces the hiring of former Devils assistant coach and former Capitals forward Adam Oates as the team’s head coach.

June 29, 2012 – Bargaining between NHL, NHLPA begins.

July 2, 2012 – Washington signs former Maple Leafs forward Joey Crabb.

July 3, 2012 – Washington signs former Predators defenseman Jack HIllen.

July 5, 2012 – Washington re-signs center Mathieu Perreault and forward Jay Beagle.

July 11, 2012 – Washington signs former Florida forward Wojtek Wolski.

July 13, 2012 – NHL presents initial proposal that reduces players’ share of hockey-related revenue to a reported 43 percent.

July 16, 2012 – Washington re-signs defenseman Mike Green.

Aug. 14, 2012 – NHLPA makes first proposal.

Aug. 15, 2012 – NHL rejects NHLPA’s offer.

Aug. 28, 2012 – NHL offers players 46 percent of HHR.

Sept. 12, 2012 – NHLPA makes offer, which is immediately rejected by the NHL.

Sept. 13, 2012 – Owners meet in New York, and unanimously vote to lock out players when current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at 11:59 on Sept. 15, 2012.

Sept. 14, 2012 – Washington re-signs defenseman John Carlson.

Sept. 16, 2012 – With no deal in place, lockout begins at midnight.

Sept. 19, 2012 – NHL cancels preseason games through Sept. 30.

Sept 22, 2012 – NHL fines Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano for an interview with Island Sports News where players were equated to cattle.

Sept. 27, 2012 – NHL cancels remainder of preseason.

Oct. 4, 2012 – NHL cancels regular-season games through Oct. 24.

Oct. 16, 2012 – NHL offers 50-50 split on revenue and says it is willing to preserve 82-game schedule.

Oct. 17, 2012 – NHLPA rejects offer.

Oct. 18, 2012 – NHLPA offers three proposals, which NHL quickly rejects.

Oct. 19, 2012 – NHL cancels games through Nov. 1.

Oct. 26, 2012 – NHL cancels game through Nov. 30.

Nov. 2, 2012 – NHL cancels Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Nov. 21, 2012 – NHLPA makes proposal with 50-50 split and $392 million “make whole provision.” NHL rejects proposal.

Nov. 23, 2012 – 2013 NHL All-Star Game, scheduled for Jan. 27, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio, is cancelled.

Nov. 28, 2012 – Two sides meet with federal mediators, who say after two days sides are far apart.

Dec. 4, 2012 – Two sides meet without Gary Bettman and Don Fehr, sparking some progress in talks.

Dec. 5, 2012 – With progress, NHL Board of Governors meet briefly as progress seen being made.

Dec. 6, 2012 – Talks fall apart, leading to harsh words on both sides.

Dec. 10, 2012 – NHL cancels games through Dec. 30.

Dec. 13, 2013 – Two sides meet with mediator in suburban New Jersey, with no success.

Dec. 14, 2012 – NHL files class-action suit against players to establish legality of lockout.

Dec. 20, 2012 – NHL cancels games through Jan. 14.

Dec. 27, 2012 – NHL e-mails new proposal, sparking new round of discussions.

Dec. 31, 2012 – Two sides resume bargaining.

Jan. 4, 2013 – With progress made, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh works to iron out difference between two sides.

Jan. 6, 2013 – After a 16-hour bargaining session at 4:45 a.m., the two sides reach a tentative agreement to end the lockout.

NHL, NHLPA reach tentative deal to end lockout

Washington Capitals fans, as well as fans across North America, awoke Sunday morning to the news that the National Hockey League will indeed have a 2012-13 season.

Around 4:45 a.m., the two sides – with the help of a federal mediator – solved the dispute with a tentative deal that will bring the game back to rinks all across North America. The session, which lasted 16 hours, produced a 10-year-deal which will allow the owners to unlock the doors and bring about a truncated season.

While a lot depends on when the deal is actually put on paper and ratified by the NHL’s Board of Governors and the players, training camp could open up as early as Wednesday.

It’s expected teams will play a 48 to 50 game season, with a heavy dose of divisional play. The exact start of the season is still to be determined, and while a new schedule will use some of the same dates as the old 82-game version, the opponents will change.

The Capitals could play seven games against Southeast Divisional foes, and two against the 10 teams from the Atlantic and Northeast Division teams in a 48-game schedule. If two more are added, it’s expected they could be “rivalry” games, which could mean an extra matchup against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or New York.

But, after an ugly labor dispute that cancelled at least 32 games and took nearly four months to solve, hockey fans across Washington and the world got what they wanted: the game to return within two weeks.

Time Running Short for NHL to Get Back on Ice

Will the Capitals finally get to use all these game pucks in 2013? (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The grand plan for the NHL is two weeks from Saturday to return from a seven-month hiatus, with nearly every team in action against a rival as the league tries to start to undo the damage from a long and rancor-filled lockout.

Of course, there’s the whole matter of getting the CBA done first.

With the protracted labor talks entering their final stages to try and salvage the 2012-13 season, it’s critical for the league and its players union to try and find common ground – and not miscalculate the others’ intentions – to get the league back on track to playing on-ice games instead of off-ice ones.

Both sides wheeled out their nuclear options in recent days to pressure the other side into a settlement.

For its part, the NHL indicating the “drop-dead date” when the deal had to be done (or near done) by next Thursday or Friday to avoid the league’s second cancellation in eight years. The NHLPA is responding to the NHL’s threat with a second round of disclaimer of interest voting, which could send the whole mess into the abyss of the U.S. court system, which would throw the season and outcome of the labor dispute in serious doubt.

So, in order to avoid the league’s version of mutually-assured destruction, the two sides have been talking for the past few days in New York, and with the aid of a federal mediator, trying to bridge the last gap to a deal.

But in the final stages as the two sides jockey for final concessions, the process is very delicate, as a bad mistake or miscalculation on either side and time running short could mean a disaster for the league, with billions lost and the league’s already tattering reputation getting further stained.

Quite simply, neither side can afford to make a big mistake and let the opportunity to salvage its season slip through its fingers.

The league has achieved an almost-guaranteed win in reducing the players’ share of revenue from 57 to 50 percent, but is now running the risk of costing itself more money in lost revenues to get the concession than not changing the system at all. For the players, while they are getting some late concessions from the league as the days to the deadline dwindle, they also are losing games – and millions in salaries – to get them, with an estimated $800 million lost even if the players settle on a 48-game schedule.

Back in 2004-05, while the owners were willing to cancel a season for a salary cap, the players eventually blinked, but erred badly in not leaving themselves enough time to save the year, as last-ditch talks in February collapsed. That failure ended up costing players over a billion in lost salaries they would never recover. Veterans from that labor dispute lament the money that vaporized in that dispute, and when the NHLPA stumbled badly at the finish line, it cost then-NHLPA head Bob Goodenow his job once the new CBA was finalized.

As a result of their defeat at the table, the players called in Major League Baseball’s former union head, Don Fehr, who they felt wouldn’t make the same error. And while Fehr has the support of the bulk of his players, it will be quite different down the road if he can’t do what he was brought in to do – to get a deal done. Even though he was popular among baseball players in his days with MLB’s union, he never lost more than two months of his union members’ salaries at one time, coming in the 1994 strike that wiped out the World Series.

For the owners, the reputation of the product is at stake.

While fans were very forgiving after the 2004-05 dispute, the mood isn’t good towards the NHL right now. The league did a good job selling the lockout and need for a cap to limit the damage, this time, the narrative of revenue sharing has evaporated into a fight over player contract length and pensions – neither of which should put a season at risk.

Fans are angry, sponsors are upset and the league’s broadcast partners aren’t happy either with the absence of a product, and the league is taking a hit in the court of marketability. A lost year would be an absolute disaster for the industry that has its boosters suffering from labor fatigue, not unlike baseball’s ill-fated 1994 strike that capped off a string of disputes dating back to the 1970s.

Baseball in 1995 took years to recover the damage it did to itself, and hockey is at risk of that potential damage with a lost season.

So, to get those rivalry games on ice in two weeks, the pressure is on both sides to deliver a deal, and both sides have been running down the clock to hope they could get a better deal.

But the path is narrow, and both sides will have to finally close on a deal despite circling the final CBA for months in a slow circle. Because if they don’t, the consequences will be dire for the league and its players.

Ted Starkey is a Contributor to District Sports Page. Ted is a veteran sportswriter who works for SB Nation Washington, and has written for The Washington Times, Tampa Tribune, AOL Sports, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com, along with a pair of books on the Capitals, Red Rising and Transition Game. He has covered the NHL, NFL and MLB, along with the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics and several Stanley Cup and Calder Cup playoffs. You can follow him at @TedStarkey.

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