NEW YORK (AP) Traditional labor talks have made little progress in the ongoing NHL lockout, so the league and the players' association are going to try something different in an attempt to save the season that is slipping away.A crew of six owners will meet with a handful of players on Tuesday in New York - one day before the league's board of governors meeting - without Commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr. Bettman proposed the unique meeting on Wednesday when talks broke off following two days of negotiations with federal mediators, and it wasn't agreed to until Sunday.Originally the thought was no one other than owners and players would be in attendance, but each side will have staff and counsel there. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly will likely participate for the NHL, along with union special counsel Steve Fehr.Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames), Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning) will take part in the talks for the league, Daly said."No further details have been confirmed at this point," Daly said in a statement announcing the meeting. "We will provide further details when available and as appropriate."Six players will be picked for the meeting, but that list wasn't expected to be announced on Sunday, a union spokesman said. Neither the NHL nor the players' association had input on who would attend on the opposite side, Daly said in an email to The Associated Press.All games through Dec. 14 have already been wiped off the schedule, along with the outdoor Winter Classic on New Year's Day and All-Star Weekend that was slated for January in Columbus, Ohio.The lockout reached its 78th day on Sunday, and at best, there will only be a shortened season if there is any hockey at all.Many conditions needed to be worked out before this meeting could be scheduled. The sides were in contact over the weekend and finally saw eye to eye on Sunday night. Now they need to figure out how to break through on the financial issues and player contracting disputes that are keeping them apart and putting the entire season at risk.The union has allowed any players who wanted to attend previous bargaining sessions to come, but the NHL has limited which owners could take part."The NHLPA has agreed to a meeting on Tuesday in New York that should facilitate dialogue between players and owners," Donald Fehr said in a statement. "There will be owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome. We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement."Jacobs, considered one of the hard-line owners, and Edwards are the only members of the group of six to have taken part in previous negotiations.The New York Post reported Sunday that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan wanted to be included in the talks, as he was last year during the NBA lockout, but he wasn't picked. The Post said that Dolan, who was part of the NBA owners' negotiating committee, hasn't had a personal relationship with Bettman since at least 2007.Dolan's New York Rangers were listed as the NHL's second-most valuable franchise this week, according to Forbes magazine, at 750 million - 250 million behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first hockey team to be valued at 1 billion. Forbes said that the Rangers were the second-most profitable franchise, behind Toronto, generating 74 million of the league's 3.4 billion income.
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.