With CBA talks ongoing for a fourth straight day in New York, the Canes' Jordan Staal is trying to stay upbeat, positive, hopeful that he'll be back on the ice soon and playing.
But like many of the players, Staal received an internal memo Thursday night from Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA. The memo, which has been leaked to the media, said in part, "We are meeting again, and while some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made."
"Obviously it's not fun to hear that there's still a lot of work to be done," he said after skating at Raleigh Center Ice. "I think a lot of the players are very optimistic and very happy they're talking again and working hard throughout the past three days.
"It's still part of the process, I guess. It's my first time through it but it's still taking time. You can't expect it to be done in a few days."
The tone of Fehr's memo wasn't very encouraging. He reported the league had made its formal proposal on "make whole" and while calling it a step forward noted there still remained a "significant gap." He said the league wanted an "immediate reset" to 50-50 on the divison of hockey-related revenue, not a phase-in to 50-50 over the first three years of the CBA, as the union proposed.
Fehr said the league wanted its contracting proposals to be accepted, including limiting contracts to five years and extending unrestricted free agent status to age 28 and eight years service.
"Individually each is bad for players; taken together they would significantly reduce a players bargaining power and give the owner much more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career," Fehr wrote in the memo.
As for players such as Staal, all they can do is continue to work out, skate, try to stay informed and hope for the best. They hired Fehr, a tough, skilled negotiator, to do a job and must try to remain patient while he does it.
"That's the hardest part right now," Staal said. "That's why we hired Don, obviously. He's keeping everyone on the same page and understanding that we need to be patient to get the right deal. We need to find a way to make it happen, and I think we're on the right track and we're talking and things are going the right way. Hopefully we can make a breakthrough soon."
A breakthrough could mean a Dec. 1 start and perhaps a 70-game season. But that would also mean having the CBA approved in a week to 10 days, allowing time for players to return from Europe and then a week of training camp.
"I'm still optimistic," Staal said. They're talking and they're moving forward. There are things we've wanted to talk about with (the league) for a while and they're talking about it now. So still optimistic and still hopeful excited we can get this thing started."