Will four young Edmonton Oilers stars — four potential future NHL All-Stars — play for the Oklahoma City Barons all season?
While a deadline probably is several weeks away, the next two days could be pivotal if the National Hockey League is to salvage the 2012-13 season.
Six NHL owners will meet with players on Tuesday. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr won't attend the meeting. On Wednesday, owners are conducting a board of governors meeting.
“It seems like it's something new every week,” said Barons forward Taylor Hall, who has played in Edmonton the past two seasons. “One week there's hope. The next week there's a lot of doubt whether there's even going to be a season.
“From what I've heard it seems like we're close on some things but at the same time very far apart.”
Mathematically, NHL owners and the players union don't seem that far apart. Philosophically, the divide is gigantic as the lockout approaches three months.
There's still time to salvage a shortened 50- or 62-game season. But there's growing sentiment the entire 2012-13 NHL season could be canceled like it was eight years ago.
“When there's been some optimism it's usually gone right back to the negative,” said Jordan Eberle, second in the American Hockey League in scoring. “I wouldn't be surprised if it lasted all year. I just try to take my mind off it. My focus is here.”
Negotiations continued through mid-February before the 2004-05 season was canceled. This time, the deadline most likely would be a lot earlier.
“It's getting down to the nitty-gritty,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Some decisions are going to have to be made the next couple of weeks. If they want to play a season they'll have to start playing pretty soon after New Year's. It will take some time to hammer out the details.
“Who knows what's going to happen? Right now the players here are treating it like they'll be here the whole year. The further it goes on, for obvious reasons, it doesn't look very good.”