LeBrun: CBA talks set to enter “crucial” period

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If the NHL and NHLPA are going to make big gains in CBA negotiations, it probably needs to happen in the next 7-10 days,* Pierre LeBrun reports.

Otherwise, LeBrun anticipates a “freezing out” period similar to what happened during the last lockout when the sides didn’t have meaningful discussions for three months.

LeBrun highlights this summer’s temporary $70.2 million salary cap ceiling as one of the main divides between the players and owners:

To add context to this disagreement, consider what happened in late June as an important precursor to this. At that point, both sides confirmed to ESPN.com that the NHL approached the NHLPA and asked it to consider freezing the salary cap at $64.3 million, the number which was in effect for the 2011-12 season, instead of raising it for the July 1 start of free agency.

The league’s view was that raising the cap for this past offseason was an artificial inflation of the cap given that a new CBA was in the offing. Not surprisingly, the NHLPA declined the offer, very much in its rights under the expiring CBA to have the salary cap increase July 1 according to corresponding revenues. As such, the salary cap went up to $70.2 million for the July 1 opening of the market, and some teams went ahead and spent like drunken sailors.

From that moment on, the league and owners were intent on recouping some of that money in the ensuing CBA talks.

While there aren’t official meetings planned just yet, Darren Dreger reports that the players’ and owners’ reps spoke today and expect to do the same on Tuesday.

If LeBrun’s sources are correct, the two sides need to pick up the pace.

* – The preseason is supposed to start on Sept. 23, by the way.