OTTAWA - Jason Spezza wonders if a lockout wasn’t part of the NHL’s plan all along.
While the Senators centre was on the ice for an informal workout Tuesday at the Bell Sensplex, he was back in Ottawa only long enough to pack his bags for a trip to New York on Wednesday to attend NHLPA meetings.
Spezza, accompanied by as many as 10 of his teammates and more than 250 players across the league, is headed to the Big Apple to get an update from union executive director Don Fehr on where CBA talks stand.
With the CBA set to expire Saturday at 11:59 p.m., Spezza wondered if shutting down the NHL is the owners’ way to get the players to give in to a new deal.
“A lockout is supposed to be a last option. It seems like a negotiating tactic for them,” said Spezza. “They got what they wanted last time (with a salary cap) and it didn’t work.
“We’re just trying to find a fair deal so we have labour peace moving forward. So we’re not doing this again in my career. You hope they can settle on something that makes sense for both sides.”
Spezza knows what he’s talking about. He has sat in for negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA — including the union’s first proposal that was flatly rejected — and union committee meetings.
Frustration is starting to boil over with the deadline to get a deal done only days away. Talks will resume Wednesday in New York.
Spezza said Fehr and union officials are trying to find a way to satisfy the owners’ needs.
Spezza said the NHL’s last offer wasn’t worthy of the paper it was written on. Interestingly, the players’ meeting will break up Thursday morning just as the NHL’s board of governors meetings start across town to reaffirm a lockout.
“There’s a lot of think-tank stuff going on. I know from our side they’re trying to be creative and figure out different ways to approach this to bridge the gap,” said Spezza. “I don’t feel the league has given us a fair offer yet that’s even worth considering, so there’s nothing that we can even look at.
“Our side, just because we’re not meeting, it doesn’t mean we’re not working. I know they’re there every day in New York. Hopefully, the other side is doing the same.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said nobody should be surprised the discussions have reached the brink.
“I can’t say I’m discouraged. This was a little bit anticipated,” said Alfredsson. “Everybody hoped we would be further along. At the same time, I don’t think we’ll see anybody show their best hand until next week or maybe a few weeks from now.
“No, I haven’t (written off the season). We’ve got a long way to go. There is time even though it’s getting tighter and tighter.”
Defenceman Chris Phillips, the club’s NHLPA rep who will be unable to attend the meetings, is optimistic a new deal can be put in place because both sides agree on the salary cap and it’s coming up with a formula to split the revenue.
“We have a cap system now and we’re talking about the same things,” said Phillips. “It’s about agreeing to what the right numbers are and I think that’s something that’s a lot easier to negotiate and come to an agreement than arguing on which system is better.”