Like most hockey fans waiting for the merciful end to the NHL lockout, Capitals forward Jason Chimera is hoping the cone of silence coming out of New York is a sign of progress.
“They’re keeping it pretty hush-hush,” Chimera said Wednesday morning after another workout with a handful of teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
The NHL players are currently reviewing the counter-proposal made by the NHL Tuesday night after a full day of negotiations. The players would like to see next season’s salary cap raised from the proposed $60 million, which would in turn decrease the percentage of their salary placed in escrow.
The givebacks in the league’s counter-proposal could go a long way in determining if the NHL Players’ Association postpones tonight’s midnight deadline for filing a disclaimer of interest.
“From our standpoint we don’t really know much,” Chimera said. “They have a little bit of momentum and they don’t want to screw it up by getting it out to everybody. As long as they keep meeting it’s positive.
“They’re throwing things back and forth so that means it’s getting closer. It’s not like one person is throwing out something that’s ridiculous. It sounds like there is a more serious tone to the negotiations, so we’ll see how it goes.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has set a Jan. 11 deadline for an agreement and a Jan. 19 deadline to start a season of no fewer than 48 games. The NHL presented a 288-page proposal to the players on Dec. 27; the players countered with a proposal on Monday, Dec. 31; and the owners responded with another proposal on New Year’s night.
Throughout this week, Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr have been the primary negotiators, something that has been absent since talks hit a roadblock on Dec. 7.
“Don knows how the players feel,” Chimera said. “He’s very open to take an email or a phone call from us. He’s very good at gauging the temperature of the players and where they stand on things and he represents that. They have to be in the room at the same time. Those are the guys that make deals and they make their living off that.”
There is some concern that the NHL is using its last offer and Wednesday night’s deadline for filing a disclaimer of interest as a negotiating tactic to prove it is negotiating with the union in good faith.
That’s why, with nine days to go before Bettman’s deadline, it will be interesting to see how Fehr responds.
“We know what each other’s fighting for,” Chimera said. “We want to play hockey. If we sign a deal we’ve got to live with it.
“It’s like signing a contract. Sometimes you take your chances with free agency. You can win the lottery or you can wait and get hurt and you don’t sign anywhere. It’s a gamble. Every CBA has worked out in the long run for everybody. I think this one, if you ask the owners if it worked out for them, they’d probably be lying if they said no. It’s been pretty good for everybody.”
Chimera said that if a season is salvaged he will be happier for the fans and those who rely on the NHL for income than for the players or owners.
“If it happens, I’m not excited for us, I’m excited for fans to get some good news,” he said. “You talk to people and there’s so much anger out there. Like I said to you many times, all those people that work at the rinks deserve better than how they’ve been treated. It would be good for those people to get some good news and get a lot of extra money in their pockets.”