The NHL as we knew it in 201-12 could be over. Negotiations have got to the point where both sides might consider disbanding and essentially starting over.
The NHLPA is currently voting on whether or not to authorize the NHLPA leadership to send a disclaimer of interest, meaning the players would no longer have a representative body and the players would each be on their own.
One of the steps that the NHL is reportedly considering is whether or not to just let it happen, declare all contracts null and void, and allow all players to become free agents and basically just start over.
This could be a disastrous step and could shake the foundation of hockey. With all players becoming free agents and free to sign wherever they want, and no salary cap, the rich teams could load up. Also, the draft system would have to be rebuilt from the ground up, because with no CBA there would be no process in place to distribute new talent and the NHL would not have grounds to implement a method of assigning incoming players to teams without them having any say in the matter.
Imagine a line of Crosby, Stamkos and Nash wearing Blue and White Maple Leafs or Malkin, Kovalchuk and Ovechkin lining up for the Rangers. We are not too far away from getting to that point, where neither side wants to even deal with the other. When all bets are off, the league could become a true free market economy. Franchise values will never become more varied, and it will basically be setting a reset button and the gap between the rich and poor, not just in terms of teams but also the elite players and the 4th line plugs will never have been greater. Teams will pay a premium to get the Crosbys, Malkins and Webers of the league but will not pay what was the league minimum for the guys who fill out the rest of the roster. Those players would have no protection in a free market.
I expected a lengthy work stoppage, while hoping for a relatively quick resolution, but never imagined this step would be taken.