Despite the ongoing NHL lockout, it didn't seem like the owners and the NHL Players' Association were all that far apart. Call it a lack of motivation to get a deal done, perhaps, but conventional wisdom says that the sides will ultimately get this thing done before it costs an entire NHL season.
Well, that might just change.
Speaking with the Toronto Star, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Tuesday that the union could fight the league on the very notion of a salary cap. The institution of that cap was, of course, the reason for the complete loss of the 2004-05 NHL season. Via the Star:
But he also made it clear in an hour-long meeting with the Toronto Star's Editorial Board that the longer the NHL lockout lasts, the less happy the players will be playing under a salary cap.
"If this goes on for an extended period of time, I don't know what they (the players) are going to do. But I think it's safe to say, they would be exploring all options," said Fehr.
He added the players can live with salary cap if an agreement can be reached quickly.
Perhaps it's merely posturing on Fehr's part. Another fight over the cap would almost certainly force the cancellation of another full NHL year, and if that happens -- especially if the players win that fight -- it would undoubtedly mean the end of Gary Bettman's tenure as commissioner.
It's not the first time Fehr has brought up the NHL's salary cap with the media during this CBA debacle. He's often cited the growth and labor peace in Major League Baseball, tying the lack of a salary cap to that success. Fehr was the union chief of the MLBPA in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and helped facilitate the current economic system in the sport.
Fehr also refuted the NHL's current position that the union must present a proposal that shows movement on the core economic issues, or, in other words, allows some sort of roll back in player salaries. That's been a non-starter for the NHLPA and that's where we sit at the present day.
"Maybe the players and owners each live up to the letter of the individual contracts," Fehr told the Star. "I don't think that would meet with a very good response in Gary's office. But it's not a bad thought."