NEW YORK (AP) A secret, long-awaited bargaining session has done some good in the NHL labor fight - so much so that the sides already have plans to get back to the bargaining table soon.NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and players' association special counsel Steve Fehr met for long stretches Saturday in an undisclosed location, marking the first time the sides had gotten together for talks in more than two weeks."We had a series of meetings over the course of the day and had a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us," Daly told The Associated Press in an email Sunday morning. "We plan to meet again early in the week."Daly and Fehr hadn't met since Oct. 18 when both sides rejected offers, but a series of phone conversations this week did enough to produce a new round of talks. It is unclear how long they were together on Saturday, but the discussions lasted well into the night."I agree with what Bill said. Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group, and make steady progress," Fehr said Sunday in a statement.There is a sense of urgency now because nearly two months of the season and the prized Winter Classic have already been called off. The hope of a full season being played is already gone, and if a deal isn't reached soon, the NHL could be looking at its second lost campaign since 2004.The lockout reached its 50th day Sunday, but a glimmer of optimism emerged. There have already been 327 games canceled - including the outdoor Winter Classic that was wiped out Friday.A big point of contention between the NHL and the players' association has been the "make whole" provision, which will ensure that all existing player contracts will be paid out regardless of any changes made to the split of hockey-related revenues or contract language.The NHL appears ready to cover more of the costs of those deals as opposed to making them part of the players' share of revenue in future years. In its most recent offer last month, the NHL said it would honor the current contracts in deferred payments, but those would be included in the players' share of revenues.The union balked at that offer.The labor dispute, which began Sept. 16, forced all games from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30 to be called off. It isn't known if any of those games will be rescheduled if the sides come to an agreement soon, but an NHL deadline has already passed that would have allowed for each team to play all 82 games. The season needed to start by Friday for that to happen, but the only hockey activity that day was the cancellation of the outdoor game at Michigan Stadium between the host Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.Losing the major attraction on the regular-season schedule was the biggest blow yet for the league and its players. The sides couldn't even manage to get together since the previous bargaining session in which the players' union countered a league offer with three proposals that were quickly rejected by the NHL.Daly indicated that cancelling the Winter Classic doesn't necessarily mean more games in the regular season - or the All-Star game - will be wiped out soon."I don't foresee any further cancellation announcements in the near term," Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Friday.In its most recent proposal, the NHL offered the union a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, which exceeded 3 billion last season, but that offer was rejected. The players responded with three offers that went nowhere.The NHL offer was pulled back because it was contingent on the league playing a complete season."Last week we had a proposal to save a full season on the table. That has since been withdrawn," Daly told the AP. "That creates a different environment for talks."Players earned 57 percent of revenue in the recently expired contract, in which a salary cap was included for the first time. Owners sought to bring that number below 50 percent this time before their most recent offer. The union tried to get talks restarted last week without preconditions, but was turned away after refusing to agree to bargain off the framework of the league's offer or issue another proposal with the league's offer serving as a starting point.This is the third lockout in NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure. The first forced a shortened 1994-95 season, and the second led to the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season - the only time a major North American professional sports league lost a full season to a labor dispute.
Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.
Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.
While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.
Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.
General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.
There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve).
Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.
CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.
The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).
First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.
“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”
Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”
After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.
Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.
“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.
Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).
“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”
The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.
Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.
“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”
Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”