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January 4, 2013 | 11:50am ET
The fugliness has returned
 The roller-coaster ride that has been these CBA negotiations continues, and it's becoming painful to watch.

TORONTO -- What a freakin' gongshow. I mean, seriously. After making some significant progress over the last week, the NHL and NHLPA appear to be at a standstill. Again.

This entire lockout has been absolutely ridiculous. Pierre LeBrun put it best in his column for ESPN last night, this is the "most embarrassing work stoppage in the history of pro sports."

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke to a high-ranking NHL executive directly involved in these magical negotiations. He told me the two sides have agreed on a "significant number of issues," but also indicated that "not all issues are of equal important."

That's fair. Agreeing on such items as the salary cap and player contracts weighs a lot more than the Entry-Level System, Group 3 UFA status and arbitration rights, all of which remain unchanged from the previous CBA.

So far (and for now), the NHL and NHLPA seem to have agreed on such main points as a 50/50 split of Hockey Related Revenues, a 10-year CBA (though the NHLPA wants the mutual opt-out to be after seven years instead of eight), two compliance buyouts per team for next season, and a 30 per cent variance in player salaries, though as Elliotte Friedman first pointed out, no year within a player's contract can be lower than 60 per cent of the highest-paid year of the deal. The NHL also agreed to restore previous penalties related to "hiding" HRR.

It would appear that the cap and its connection to escrow, player pensions (which the NHLPA thought they had an agreement on last week) and contract terms are among the remaining big issues.

And things seemed to be moving in the right direction. Granted, the NHL continues to stand firm on its $60 million cap for the 2013-14 campaign, while the NHLPA lowered their initial counter-offer of $67 million to $65 million.

But then something happened.

Someone failed to file a Disclaimer of Interest, or give notice to the NHL.

Now, I get that as a sign of good faith, if things seemed to be moving positively, you wouldn't want to potentially mess things up by filing. But at the end of the day, you have to cover your ass, and the other side should understand that... even if they don't, tough luck. You have to do what's in the best interest of yourself and your party.

Donald Fehr was given the power to file the Disclaimer. He didn't, and now it's been widely reported that the NHL took advantage of that and talks have shifted negatively ever since the deadline to file passed.

As the NHLPA conducts another vote to file -- according TSN's Aaron Ward, it'll now require a full membership vote in order to happen -- the Players and the League will be meeting separately with a mediator today, and no bargaining sessions have been scheduled.

@#$% #&%^!!!!!!!

In lieu of this morning's activities, I reconnect with that league executive... and, like him, I'm left dumbfounded.

"It doesn't look like they have much of an appetite for moving the process forward," the executive said, referring to the NHLPA.

"I have no idea when or if there will be any bargaining today. You should ask the Union."

The most interesting part of all of this was what comes next. Asked if he could categorize discussions at this point, in light of all the doom and gloom that started spewing out of the now-warm journalists covering the negotiations in New York City, he couldn't.

"I can't really characterize them because I'm not in their minds."

Now, I'm hoping this is all one big ruse. That they'll come out of mediation today and find themselves even closer to a deal. But I don't know.

I've been Mr. Optimistic throughout this whole mess. I was told by team executives throughout this process that the season was coming back at three separate points. Once in November. Once in December, and now. I honestly don't know what to make of it, and frankly, neither do they.

There appears to be zero trust between the owners and the players. Until a new CBA signed, anything can happen and any point can change.

I'm hoping (not hopeful) something gets ironed out quickly. This looks like it will be coming down to the wire. And as of now, it can go either way.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.
 

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ARCHIVES 
Dec. 28, 2012 The future is beyond bright for NHL
Dec. 07, 2012 WTF happened?
Dec. 03, 2012 NHL COO none too pleased
Nov. 04, 2012 Slowly, progress being made
Nov. 02, 2012 NHL, NHLPA set to meet
Aug. 30, 2012 Framework in place?
Aug. 28, 2012 Not so fast, NHL
Aug. 21, 2012 Negotiations set to intensify
Aug. 14, 2012 Positive signs stem from PA proposal
Aug. 13, 2012 NHLPA to present "alternative view"

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