The NHLPA has invited U.S federal mediators into today’s meetings. They were of little use in late November but do re enter the picture at a more progressed stage than last time around. Bettman expressed zero interest in going the mediation route when talks broke down last week, Bill Daly is setting the bar low for today already, and no owners will be present, so there’s no sense in getting your hopes up too high for today.

If the five year limit on contracts really is the hill the owners will kill the season fighting on, it’s going to be interesting to see how or if things progress from here. The players see themselves losing leverage due to the trickle down effect of imposing a five-year limit on contracts, citing two central concerns: if the top players are only getting five year deals, what will everyone else get? If GMs don’t have the ability to reduce the cap hit in exchange for term on big ticket deals, how will that affect salaries for the rest of the roster? The owners meanwhile want to strengthen their control and see themselves conceding enough already on make-whole – a concession, according to the rhetoric, that they offered only as package deal along with some other conditions. If the players make significant demands on increasing the contract limit, do the owners yank the $100M back on make whole? Revisit arbitration, UFA and entry level restrictions? Where would we stand then?

I’d like to agree with Fehr’s assessment that they are very close – they definitely appear to be – but it’s also easy to see where this could all go wrong again.

For a good read on the situation heading into today, check out Elliotte Friedman’s always-excellent 30 thoughts post from yesterday.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-13 Maple Leafs Annual magazines. You can contact him at [email protected]

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