NEW YORK - All eyes are on the NHL Players' Association.
With the lockout hitting Day 67 on Wednesday, the chances of a 2012-13 season could hang in the balance as the NHL and the union will head back to the table in New York to try to find common ground for a collective bargaining agreement.
While neither side showed any willingness to budge during a 90-minute session Monday night, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr spent Tuesday huddled with his closest advisors working a on a new proposal for the league.
The league has demanded a formal proposal -- without a 50-50 split tied to revenue projections -- from Fehr and the NHLPA if the process is going to move forward. The union is now considering its options but NHL deputy Bill Daly said in an email the league is expecting a new offer.
The two sides have agreed to resume negotiations at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Daly said he wasn't sure what to expect in the new proposal.
"(Special counsel) Steve (Fehr) and I spoke late (Monday) night, and he confirmed the union would spend the day working on something to present to us, hopefully as early as (Wednesday)," said Daly Tuesday morning.
Sources say the NHLPA is concerned about too many givebacks to the league at this juncture of the negotiations. Fehr and company don't believe this is the tipping point and the players aren't ready to cave as they prepare to lose their fourth paycheque next week.
Yes, the players want to get back to playing, but they also don't want to wave the white towel by offering up a proposal that the NHL is going to rush to accept. The players are willing to go to a 50-50 revenue split, but they want to make sure all contracts are honoured.
Even if the players do give up more on the core economic issues, including the 'Make Whole' for existing contracts, then the two sides still have to get past the contract issues which the league has maintained are non-negotiable because the two sides are past the point of give and take.
As reported Tuesday, Fehr has been getting pressure from some agents to get a deal done. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos told his HockeyCentral at Noon audience "there are about a dozen" players -- some of them high profile -- putting pressure on the union to get a deal done.
It's no coincidence the likes of Tampa's Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, along with former teammate Brad Richards of the Rangers, showed up at the negotiations this week. They want to see where the process is firsthand because all want to get back playing.
If there isn't a deal this week, or a sign that the two sides are at least making progress in discussions, the league will certainly pull the plug on two more weeks of the season -- all games through Dec. 15 plus the NHL all-star game in Columbus.
The question for the players is simple: Are these negotiations critical?
If they don't move a step closer to the NHL in this meeting, will the league slap a drop-dead date on Fehr and give the union a deadline to get a deal done so there's a meaningful season?
If the two sides can work out a deal in the next couple of weeks, they can still have a 50-to-60 game season. But there's still a huge gap to bridge if there's going to be an agreement and the players don't like the fact the league is demanding they put something on the table.
"It's our position we've made a couple comprehensive proposals in a row," said Daly. "We'd like to know where they are on all issues, and we asked them to put together a comprehensive proposal for us to consider."