CHICAGO - After rejecting the latest league proposal without attempting to negotiate off it, NHL players association executive director Bob Goodenow is rumored to be ready to present the league with another proposal before tomorrow - when most observers expect the league will cancel the rest of the 2004-05 season.
It's unlikely any public statements will be made other than to announce a deal or the season's cancellation.
But rumors are spreading Goodenow will present NHL commissioner Gary Bettman with a proposal for a deal that may run for as long as eight seasons. It would be based on the union's earlier luxury tax proposal and triggers that probably would allow the league to institute its salary cap plan after two seasons.
Chicago Blackhawks player representative Jocelyn Thibault said he has not heard any news of a new union proposal, but added the union would not necessarily inform all the player reps before making another offer.
The triggers were the reason why the union rejected the league's offer last Wednesday, saying at least one would be reached immediately after signing the agreement and the owners could purposely drive up salaries in the short-term to implement their system.
The NHL's top lawyer, Bill Daly, said on a Toronto radio station last week the league was willing to negotiate the triggers and would have been willing to play two full seasons under the union proposal before determining whether it was working. The league, however, did not offer to negotiate the terms, letting the union reject the proposal and end the meeting.
Daly also indicated the league may be willing to remove its demand to "link" player salaries to revenues, another major issue with the union because revenues are expected to decrease in the coming seasons.
No new negotiating sessions have been announced. It's extremely unlikely Goodenow and Bettman would not meet one more time and it's believed the sides have had some form of contact since Thursday.
Both sides are under pressure to resolve the standoff. If a deal can be struck, the league will play a 28-game season with a full playoff schedule beginning at the end of February.
If a deal can't be struck, the NHL will be the first professional sports league in North American to lose an entire season to a labor dispute.
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.