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Jason Chimera: ‘I don’t trust Gary Bettman right now’

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

While the NHLPA’s decision not to disclaim interest Wednesday night may have offered a temporary reprieve, NHL labor negotiations remain in a fragile state.

Several issues have yet to be resolved and multiple reports indicate that NHLPA members have been told to re-vote to give the union’s executive board the authority to disclaim interest again, keeping alive the threat of the union dissolving and filing anti-trust lawsuits against the league.

Perhaps it’s not quite time to get hopes up about the season starting in mid-January.

“I’m a little leery,” Capitals winger Jason Chimera said Thursday following a player-organized workout in Arlington. The league “knew that deadline [to disclaim interest] was coming, so maybe they were bargaining in good faith up until that moment and maybe they’re going to shut it down today. I don’t dislike anybody, but I don’t trust Gary Bettman right now and what his motive is. He’s a nice man, I’ve met him numerous times, but I don’t trust what’s happened so far.

“If they’re working that late, last night was great and if they keep meeting [Thursday] it’s positive,” Chimera added. “I just don’t believe anything anymore until it’s done.”

The NHL and NHLPA resumed Thursday afternoon, the 110th day of the lockout, with small group meetings continuing what has been a busy week of negotiations as time ticks toward Bettman’s Jan. 11 deadline to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. That is the latest date a deal can be struck, according to the league, that would allow a shortened, 48-game season to begin by Jan. 19.

Over the last six days, the NHL and NHLPA have each presented two new proposals. The continued willingness of both sides to keep meeting is critical.

“Four proposals in six days and no one’s stormed out of the room, no one’s looked at them in 10 minutes,” Chimera said. “You’ve just got to keep momentum rolling. That’s the big thing, you can’t let it stall. From what I’m hearing it could have stalled in the last couple days but it didn’t, and I think that’s a good thing.”

The key points of disagreement that remain include: how player pensions are funded, player contract term limits — the league included a six-year limit (seven if signing with the same team) in its latest proposal — and the salary cap for the 2013-14 season. The NHL wants a $60 million salary cap for 2013-14, while the players reportedly are seeking a $65 million cap.

One interesting detail, according to multiple reports, is that the NHL is now offering two compliance buyouts per team for the 2013-14 season. The buyouts wouldn’t count against the salary cap but against the players’ share of hockey-related revenue. They are designed to help teams comply with that year’s proposed salary cap of $60 million.

Remember that the buyout offer and salary cap limit for 2013-14 has not been set yet – these are ongoing labor negotiations, after all — but for what it’s worth, the Capitals have $44.8 million tied up in just 12 players for the 2013-14 season, according to Capgeek, with Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson, Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth slated to become restricted free agents this summer.

If the league were to secure a $60 million salary cap for that year in bargaining, that would leave the Caps with a little more than $15 million for 11 players, assuming they filled out the 23-man roster. Could be a tight squeeze.