Any hope of salvaging part of the NHL season likely was shattered last night when talks between the league and the players' association broke off in New York after four hours following the NHL's presentation of a proposal that contained a salary cap.
A meeting scheduled for today has been canceled with no future meetings announced.
"We continue to have significant philosophical differences," said NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin, a statement he has repeated after virtually every negotiating session since the 135-day lockout began in September.
According to a prominent NHL source, the league felt it was demonstrating a willingness to compromise when it presented a proposal that included a luxury tax system, something the league previously rejected each time the union put one forth.
But with the tax also came a hard salary cap with a ceiling of $40 million, sources said. Teams still would have been obligated to spend at least $32 million on players' salaries. But the union, which has held a firm no-cap stance throughout the lockout, rejected such a foundation.
Earlier last night, a source said that if the NHLPA rejected the proposal outright, the season almost certainly would be "canceled in the very near future."
The lockout enters its 135th day today and has forced the cancellation of 721 games.
"We're going to continue to keep quiet on the status and substance of negotiations," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly told the Associated Press following last night's meeting.