Last night the players and owners were embroiled in the thick of CBA negotiations until early Thursday morning. No agreement was reached, and we’re told no agreement is imminent, but things did move in the right direction despite the tensions. Despite what we’re “told,” people are still hopeful.

Both sides exchanged CBA proposals yesterday, making it a monumental day en route to actually getting a deal done, with the players offering theirs up first, and the owner’s making the last move of the day. The day was highlighted by frequent separations into personal caucuses and re-meetings by the two sides, prompting one of the more informed reporters, Chris Johnston, to get the hashtag “LockoutYoyo” going (another Twitter trend – the damn NHL podium – I’ll get to in a bit).

The nuts and bolts of the owner’s offer:

* They would put $300 million towards the “make whole” agreement ($250M to players, $50M to pension fund). The players had asked for $393M, the owners had previously proposed $211M. So y’know…getting closer here, kids.

* The owner’s proposal was for a 10 year CBA (with an opt-out after 8) – here’s to hoping that part takes, I’m not doing this again in five.

* The league would leave unrestricted free agency and arbitration as is, which is a concession compared to their previous offers. Of course, it’s not actually a concession given that they’re just proposing to leave things as-is.

* The one area the owners were unwilling to budge: they really want contract lengths maxed out at five years (with no more than a 5% increase or decrease in pay year-to-year on all deals), but would be able to sign their own players for up to seven. Apparently this bothers the players. …And now, a little rant:

Does the NHL really want to limit themselves to only being able to lock up their Crosbys for seven years? Why not a longer option combined with some resolve to not sign mediocre players to infinite length contracts? Have better GMs. Hold your GMs accountable. You don’t have to sign guys for as many years as it’s legally allowed. Have personal team rules. If other teams want to sign guys to shitty deals, isn’t that a benefit to your club? To hell with parity – what happened to being competitive and cashing in on the failures of other clubs?

All that said…I spoke with Clark Gillies on this briefly, and we were agreeing: looking at it from the players side, our thoughts on the owners’ contract cap proposal would be this:

Kay.

Moving on.

Seriously: I mean, five years is a healthy amount of time. If you earn your money over that time, the time will re-up with you. What’s wrong with having some expectation of performance? You should expect that from yourself. Not to mention half the time the shorter deals will save guys from themselves – don’t you want to have options after a few years if you’re not happy somewhere?

As I’ve posted before, the Sedins recently came out and said they think they’ll go year-to-year, partially just to keep themselves motivated. Daniel:

“Mentally, when you get to this age, to be able to perform, you have to be there. I really believe if you sign a long term deal it will be tougher to perform on a nightly basis.”

So, whatever. We’re not going to stay locked out over that particular sticking point. Something like 10% of NHL players would be affected by a cap on contract lengths anyway (most guys sign for less than five years) – are the guys really willing to threaten the season to make sure guys like Ovy and Sid get the money they deserve?

Annnd rant over.

Inside the room last night there were a few pivotal moments. Michael Grange mentioned this in his recap of last night:

According to sources close to the negotiation it was Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller who lost his temper briefly, which seemed to encourage further dialogue, although at another point Boston Bruins hard line owner Jeremy Jacobs threatened to leave the negotiation. At that point a more moderate group of owners including the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Ron Burkle and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jeff Vinik agreed to keep the negotiation going.

Things are heating up, which could be awesome or awful. Rich people generally don’t like not getting their way (a fair generalization, I think), so compromise is going to frustrate a lot of people.

The other bit of semi-relevance from last night was the Twitter trend I mentioned earlier, @NHLPodium, which I’ll now attempt to explain:

When a podium is going up after negotiations (in fact it was the “lecturn” that was going up, but whatever), it’s a likely sign that a presser may be coming, and thus there might be new developments. When you’re a reporter being treated like a mushroom – being fed shit and kept in the dark – you report minor details like this. Last night, about a dozen reporters jumped on the scoop that the podium was going up, and us crazy hockey fans descended into online madness about the tidbit. Holy shit, did some people take the ball and run with it (which angered Sean Gentille of the Sporting News). That twitter account now has nearly 12,000 followers.

I loved this little cartoon by @stevieroxelle, who you should follow:

The Twitpic:

But enough podium fun. The players and owners are meeting again this afternoon, while the PA has an internal meeting this morning. We’ll keep you updated on events as they unfold.

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UPDATES:

Here come Bettman and Daly…

My numbers may have been a touch high…