NEW YORK (AP) As quickly as NHL labor negotiations got going again, they came to a screeching halt. Now there is no telling when the league and the players will return to the bargaining table.After a one-day break following a series of formal discussions this week, the sides got back to business on Sunday. Less than 90 minutes after talks solely about player-contract issues started, they were over.The players contend the NHL has dug in on its position and is not willing to negotiate."The owners made it clear there is no give with respect to their proposals unless the players are willing to take them - this is my phrase, not theirs - down to the comma, then there is nothing to do, that we're past the point of give and take," players' association executive director Donald Fehr said.No new plans to talk were made, but Monday wasn't ruled out. The sides will be in touch, and if they do decide to meet then, those talks will take place in Toronto where leaders from the NHL and the players' association will be to attend Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies."The two sides will be talking," Fehr said. "I don't know when we will get back together again. I suspect it won't be too long, but I don't have any idea. We've indicated to them that when they resume, we'd like it to be in Toronto soon. We're meeting down here in large part because of the convenience, especially after the hurricane, for the families and staff of the NHL. Now we'd like to get some of our people back to their families, too."Getting together hasn't been a problem recently once tensions thawed a bit after both sides rejected proposals on Oct. 18.NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with union special counsel Steve Fehr last weekend, and that led to four straight days of talks this week in New York that ended on a sour note Friday night.Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also took part in Sunday's brief discussions.Daly, Steve Fehr and Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth got together for an informal lunch meeting on Saturday in New York, and the sides made plans Sunday morning to meet again at the NHL's Manhattan office.They just couldn't get any traction on the hotly contested issues involving player contract terms.The NHL wants to limit contracts to five years, make rules to prohibit back-diving contracts the league feels circumvents the salary cap, keep players ineligible for unrestricted free agency until they are 28 or have eight years of professional service time, cut entry-level deals to two years, and make salary arbitration after five years.Daly said Sunday that owners have conveyed the message to him that these issues are of vital importance in a new deal. While there could be room to negotiate within the framework, the bottom line on these issues remains the same."It's fair to say, while there was a candid discussion on those issues, and certainly each side explained their positions to the other, I don't think there was any progress on those issues," Daly said. "I would've hoped that during the course of the past week they would've shown some movement on those issues toward us, knowing what our fundamental concerns are. The message we basically got this week was, We know what your contracting proposals are, we're not prepared to agree to them.'"They are not issues that can be traded off. They are all important issues to us. That doesn't mean you can't talk about them and shake them. There is flexibility around the issues we need to achieve but they are not issues that we can walk away from."Despite reports that talks on Friday got heated before negotiations ended, Daly said Sunday he doesn't feel animosity has crept into the bargaining room. However, if the sides can't find common ground, there won't be a deal anytime soon to save the already delayed and shortened season.A few hours into Friday's session, negotiations broke down over the core economic differences that separate the sides and are threatening the season completely. The lockout already has caused the NHL to call off 327 regular-season games, including the New Year's Day Winter Classic. A lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season."I always like to look at the glass as half-full, not half-empty. I like to be optimistic," Daly said. "I don't know exactly where they are on economics. I hope we're getting closer in that regard. With respect to these issues, they are important issues."If we can find some way to address our concerns in these (player contract) issues, we can move this process forward. Right now, given their opposition to addressing some of these issues, I don't know where we go."
The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.
But it might be a possibility.
According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.
Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.
The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas.
Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.
Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”
As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.
Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.
The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.
Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.
Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.
Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.
Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.
Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.