Cory Schneider has nearly given up hope.
That’s of playing in Europe. There’s not much chance now, unless the season is cancelled.
Of course, that is not completely out of the question, especially with the way a wind change has altered the dynamics in the NHL labour stalemate.
Schneider is baffled by the current situation, which has developed into a street fight to the finish over players’ contract rights.
Even after the sides agreed revenues will be split 50/50, the owners are seeking significant changes to entry-level deals, contract-length limits, arbitration rights, and free agency.
Is that all?
The owners claim they won’t budge, eliciting a predictable, emotional response from the players. They’re angry.
“They’ve already got a billion dollars and now they want the most restrictive contracting rules in sport,” Schneider said. “It seems a little heavy-handed on their part. We’re willing to talk, but it doesn’t seem like they are.
“It’s very frustrating. We feel we’re close and they come out and say, ‘No, we’re not.’”
The owners’ position has the players digging in their heels, which probably wasn’t the best time for former player Mark Recchi to throw his support behind the owners.
“The longer it goes, the worse (the offer) is going to get,” Recchi warned players through boston.com. “They’re always going to get paid, no matter what. Look at that last deal. We ended up with the cap and everyone thought it was a bad deal. But it ended up great, right?”
Turns out, he’s an economist as well as a doctor. Who knew?
“It’s always easy for us to cave,” Schneider responded. “But the proposal they have would really impact us moving forward.
“The detriment it would cause the players on the contracting rights is far greater than the benefits the owners would gain.
“For them, to make (contract rights) their last stand, on all of them, doesn’t make sense to us.”
It’s the same point Sidney Crosby drove home in Pittsburgh.
“Guys aren’t going to give in when it comes to contract (rights), it’s not going to happen,” Crosby told reporters. “It’s not money, it’s rights as a player in his profession.
“It’s what guys are definitely going to stand strong on. It’s ridiculous to try and change that after the success the league has had here in the last seven, eight years.”
Essentially, the NHL wants to turn back the clock. It’s looking to limit contracts to five years, change unrestricted free agency — moving it to age 28 or eight years of professional experience — scale back entry-level deals to two years, and bump salary arbitration eligibility to after five years.
“They got the cap and we got contracting rights,” Schneider said of the last lockout. “For us, seven years later, to just go right back on those, means it was for nothing. Guys sat out a season of their careers for no real reason. Guys feel strongly about it.
“But we are amenable. We are looking to work on it with (the owners) in areas they really think they need it.
“I think they look at like, if they give us the ‘make whole’ (which would guarantee current contracts), then they get every contracting right they’ve proposed.
“For us, we don’t think that’s how it should work.”
Recchi isn’t the first to suggest the players have the most to lose the longer the lockout drags on, suggesting the players’ position gets weaker by the day.
“We don’t agree with that internally,” Schneider said. “It’s doing a lot of harm to them, too. It’s mutually assured destruction.”
The standoff is entering its final chapter. The sides probably have a month before they edge up against the point of no return, and a lost season.
Schneider, who considered signing in Switzerland to play a couple of weeks ago, is resigned now to waiting the negotiations out here in North America.
“It’s pretty quiet in Europe,” Schneider said. “Unless Europe opens up, I don’t really have a choice but to stick it out here.”