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Insider Only CBA Buzz: Painted into a corner, what next step do players take? Depth players like Joe Vitale one’s really affected, not star players like Crosby

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post had a bombshell quote from a depth player last night immediately after talks imploded.”We were ready to play again. But Don came in (Wed.) and told us we could get more and to hold out,” the player said who Dater labeled as being deep inside the process
Those quotes from players behind the scenes is exactly the suspicions the league has had about Don Fehr for weeks, as multiple league sources have been claiming for a while that he doesn’t want a deal.
So where did things go wrong after the involvement from the moderate owners brought trust back to the table between the two sides on Tuesday night. The league feels Fehr’s ego definitely halted a deal.
The players had what is said to have been a heated conference call on Wednesday regarding the owners take or leave it offer on the three requirements of 10 year CBA ($300 million ‘make-whole- contingent of that), 5 year term of contracts (7 years to resign own players) and no compliance issues.
A player tells me there was a enough support gaining to move forward in negotiations under the owners three requested requirements and the source specifically named Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Towes as two prominent players close to the process who command a lot of respect from the players where they could have possibly swayed the players away from deciding to take Fehr’s advice to make a counter-proposal, and therefore, come together as players and work off the owners offer and agreeing to the NHL’s “three requirements”. If that would have been the case, we probably would have had a tentative agreement on a new deal by the weekend.
The dynamic developing behind the scenes is that the depth players really want to play and they are the ones truly affected when it comes to the players. Let’s be honest, Sidney Crosby and other star players are set for life. Whatever deal is agreed upon isn’t not going to affect their lives one bit. Players like Joe Vitale are the players making around the league minimum and are missing a season in their prime and struggle to find jobs overseas as the star and mid-tier players are taken them during the lockout. A player of Vitale’s stature (12th-13th forward), might only see three to four regular years in the NHL at the most.
A players source who is becoming very nervous about Fehr’s lockout strategy, tells me it’s really going to take some respected star players close to the process to have the guts to step up and go away from the company line (direction Fehr is taking talks). To this point it hasn’t happened and it probably won’t as Fehr still has a strong support base around him but it’s becoming a fragile group behind the scenes I’m told.
The players as I wrote yesterday are now painted into a corner and I strongly believe Fehr lost them the best deal they were going to get. Things are setting up where they either accept a last minute deal mostly on the owners terms or lose the season. I still believe the players will cave at the very last minute and we’ll have a 48 game season, however, I’m not as confident as I was a week ago. One big reason why is the players feel the trust between the two sides is gone for good now.
Elliotte Friedman today wrote about the few options the players have moving forward. He listed five:
1. The NHL is serious this time, we better do it
2. He’s {Gary Bettman} full of it, either he doesn’t have the stones to do it or the owners won’t let it happen
3. Let’s file the “Disclaimer of Interest” and see what transpires
4. Maybe we should get rid of Donald Fehr
5. Take down the season
The guess here is that the players strongly consider No. 3 option, but Fehr talks them into believing Bettman is full of it (No. 2 option) and won’t let another lockout happen under his watch. The players then try to play a game of poker all the way down to the very last minute.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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