The battery of lawyers and sprawling negotiating committees are being relegated to the sidelines.
As the NHL's collective bargaining talks resume in New York on Tuesday, they'll do so with only four men at the table: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, on one side; NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr and his top assistant, Steve Fehr, on the other.
"Both sides agree that this, at this point in time, might be a productive way for us to try and get some traction," Bettman said when negotiations broke last week.
There's been very little evidence of traction over the last two months.
While the parties have met face-to-face every week since the end of June, they've made very little headway on the framework that will shape the next agreement. That prompted the first small session with just Bettman, Daly and the Fehrs in Toronto last week, and led to the scheduling of another one with the talks shifting back to New York.
The sides are in need of anything that might encourage progress with a Sept. 15 deadline looming for a lockout.
"When you get into discussions like this sometimes things can become more or less cumbersome depending on the nature of the group and what you're talking about," said Donald Fehr. "And, you find a way to satisfy everybody's comfort level and go on. If you try it one way and that doesn't really work you go try it another way.
"If that doesn't work you try it a third way."
The biggest issue holding up talks is finding agreement on how the league's revenues should be split up. Players received 57 per cent under the expiring CBA and the league wants to see that number reduced considerably.
The NHL's initial offer involved cutting the amount to 43 per cent, although it has indicated a willingness to negotiate off that number.
Based on last season's revenues, every percentage point lost would cost the players $33 million. After capitulating in the last round of negotiations and hiring Fehr to lead them in this one, that group appears ready to fight against significant givebacks.
In fact, Fehr declared last week that "the players aren't afraid of a lockout."
For an agreement to be made, something will have to give. Bettman has made it clear that he believes the owners are paying out too much money.
"The players have done very well under this deal," said Bettman. "The average salary has gone from $1.45 million (in 2005-06) to $2.45 million, and I think if given their druthers—and they've said publicly—they'd be happy to keep playing under this deal even while we negotiate. ...
"My sense is that they prefer to keep things the way they are, and so that slows up the process."
The sides have looked like competing hockey teams at the conclusion of previous negotiating sessions, with the number of well-dressed attendees often unable to fit together in one elevator.
The gathering will be decidedly smaller on Tuesday as the leaders of the NHL and NHLPA try to push talks in a positive direction.
"Hopefully we'll be productive when we get to it," said Fehr. "We have a lot to do. I have always believed that there is enough time.
"If there is a mutual will to do that, I still believe there is enough time to do that before the expiration of the contract."
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The 36-year-old reached the milestone scoring against former teammate Roberto Luongo.
Henrik Sedin cemented his place in the record books on Friday night becoming the first player in Vancouver Canucks history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. He also became the seventh active player to reach 1,000 points joining Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Patrick Marleau and Alex Ovechkin.
The 36-year-old is the 85th player all-time to reach the milestone and the 38th to do it all with one franchise.
Henrik joined the 1,000-point club at 5:50 of the second period against the Florida Panthers picking up a pass from brother Daniel and beating former teammate Roberto Luongo to tie the game 1-1.
“I didn’t really see what happened after the face-off, but Loui (Eriksson) made a great play over to Eddie (Alex Edler) and I thought Alex was going to give it to me at first, but he threw it over to Danny, cross-ice, tough pass to handle, but he managed to hold on to it,” Henrik said of the play. “I felt the whole way up the ice something good was going to happen.
“Then when I got the breakaway, I didn’t really know what to do. I think Lu thought I was going to go upstairs so it was nice to see it go in.”
Following the goal, Henrik got a congratulatory handshake from Luongo who spent eight seasons with the Canucks.
What did the goaltender tell him?
“Just ‘Congrats’, that’s it. It was very nice of him,” said Henrik.
A reporter noted that the two shared a few words during the pre-game skate at which time Henrik says he prepared the goaltender for what to expect.
“I think I told him I was going to shoot, if we got a 2-on-1, to be prepared,” joked Henrik.
Henrik Sedin becomes just the fourth Swedish-born player to join the 1,000-point club. With the assist on the goal, Daniel Sedin is now just 32 points shy of joining the 1,000-poing club – the brothers would become the first in NHL history to each record 1,000 points.
“Everything was good about it. We got a big win. It was nice to get Alex and Danny to get the helpers – they’ve played for a long time,” said Henrik Sedin. “I think the best part, by far, was the teammates coming out on the ice and celebrating with me. That’s something I will remember forever.
“When I saw my teammates come out on the ice, I lost it a little bit. Very special. If I retired today, that was the most memorable moment for me as a player.”
During a stoppage in play, the Canucks paid tribute to their captain with a video montage.
Henrik registered his first career NHL point against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 6, 2000. Friday night was his 1,213th career game.
Drafted by the Canucks third overall at the 1999 NHL Draft, Henrik is the franchise leader in games played, points and assists. Sedin has the second most assists in the NHL since making his debut during the 2000-01 season trailing only Thornton. He holds the Canucks single-season record for scoring with 112 points and assists (83) set during the 2009-10 season.
Tom Pyatt scored the shootout winner for Ottawa in a 3-2 win over the Leafs.
Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher is not a fan of the shootouts despite his team’s come from behind victory in the skills competition on Saturday night.
Mike Hoffman tied the game 2-2 with 1:11 remaining in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, Tom Pyatt scored the shootout winner in the fourth round.
“I never watch shootouts. I never have," Boucher said per Sportsnet's Luke Fox. "Two reasons. One: I hate it. I think it's a team game and it should be decided with team play, but I understand the game has to end.
"The other thing: I got in the habit of not looking. Makes no difference if I look or not, so I let the guys do their thing. I used to get involved and talk to the guys, 'You could do this and that'. Now I stay out of the way."
The loss drops the Leafs to 1-6 in shootouts this season. Mitch Marner was the only Leaf to beat Mike Condon in the shootout. The Sens starter stopped Auston Matthews and James van Riemsdyk for the win.
“I don't know. Maybe the other goalies are good,” Mike Babcock said of his team’s struggles in the shootout. “Maybe we're not any good at it. We work on it every single pregame skate.
“It's just something we'll have to get better at obviously because we've left points – I think we're 1-6 or something aren't we? So we'll just keep working on it like we do as a special team.”
The game-winner came on the first career shootout attempt for Pyatt.
“He did a deke and I don't know how it went through there but he snuck it back in,” said Frederik Andersen of the goal. “He made a great move.”
The Blues face a tough decision with pending UFA defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk -- keep him and try to make a playoff run, or trade him at the deadline.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was the subject last summer of considerable trade speculation. For weeks, there was talk that Blues GM Doug Armstrong was shopping the 27-year-old rearguard, who's eligible this July for unrestricted free agency.
Armstrong apparently set a expensive asking price for the puck-moving blueliner: From the Boston Bruins, both of their first-round picks in the 2016 draft plus right winger David Pastrnak. The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, spurned Armstrong's request for promising left winger Dylan Larkin.
Unable to find any takers, Armstrong opted to retain Shattenkirk for this season. The trade chatter eventually faded. But with the March 1 trade deadline less than six weeks away, the rumors are resurfacing.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wonders if Armstrong might shop Shattenkirk as a rental player to a playoff contender and use the cap savings to address other roster issues. With the Blues carrying Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko as right-shooting defenders, Friedman feels they've got sufficient depth to handle that move.
By peddling Shattenkirk to a playoff contender, the club getting him gets a boost while he bolsters his value in this summer's free-agent market. Friedman acknowledges Armstrong's previous high asking price, but wonders if he might lower it and use the cap savings to bring in something that helps the Blues now.
The Edmonton Oilers were linked to Shattenkirk last summer, but it's believed he was reluctant to go there. Friedman wonders if he'll reconsider joining them in a short-term situation.
TSN's Frank Seravalli also ponders the possibility of Shattenkirk becoming a playoff rental. He notes the Blues aren't as strong as they once were. With the Oilers in playoff position and considered buyers at the trade deadline for the first time in years, Seravalli proposes offering up a conditional first-round pick to the Blues.
Seravalli's colleague Darren Dreger suggests a “trade and extend” scenario could boost Shattenkirk's trade value. In other words, he gets dealt and signs a contract extension with his new club.
Dreger said the Blues defender is willing to consider several options. Among them, the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and even his former club, the Colorado Avalanche.
Of those on Dreger's list, all but the Sharks and Ducks need a top-four defenseman. San Jose is already solid on the right side with Brent Burns and Justin Braun. Anaheim's overstocked with good young defenseman and need scoring depth at left wing.
Pierre LeBrun believes the Blues could entertain offers for Shattenkirk. However, that doesn't mean they're keen to move him.
Trading a pending UFA would be an uncharacteristic move by Armstrong. He usually retains those players to help his club in the post-season, despite the likelihood of losing them for nothing to free agency in the summer.
Still, trading Shattenkirk before the deadline could be worthwhile to bolster a weakness elsewhere. While not as strong as in recent years, the Blues remain a playoff club. A significant move that addresses their weak points could improve their championship hopes.
If Armstrong moves Shattenkirk to a contender for a high draft pick, he could bundle that pick with a prospect and attempt to pry a quality player from a non-playoff club.
The Blues must improve at center, where the depth drops noticeably beyond Paul Stastny. If Armstrong wants a rental player, he could pursue Martin Hanzal of the Arizona Coyotes. If his preference is someone with term on his contract, Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche could be an option.
With goaltender Jake Allen struggling of late, perhaps Armstrong could use the freed-up cap room to bring in a reliable starter. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a playoff team, but they could attempt to move Marc-Andre Fleury to protect Matt Murray in June's expansion draft.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).