I doubt setting a deadline earlier would have accomplished much. Why not set the deadline in October then? Both sides had an idea of the real deadline without needing an official announcement. Heck, it was probably like a game of chicken between those two guys. "So Gary, how late are you willing to go? Pretty late, Bob. How long can _you_ wait?
52 is realistic taken into consideration the players have still offered their 24% rollback. The league needs to either nogiate off the 52 down to 45 or have a 40 with a max of 52 with a high tax system for teams over 40.
52 is not realistic but fully agree with your last point aside from 'nogiate'.
The removal of a link between cap and revenue is huge by the NHL, given that revenues will fall. The players now have to give something more, since 52*30 doesn't work with declining revenues. Since the league is at 40 and the players at 52, one would hope they could put in a high tax system between 40 and 52, a floor at 30 with significant revenue sharing, and get a deal done.
The NHL absolutley has to neogotiate off this. There is no possible way an impasse exists, so replacement players are no longer an option. So the choices are: 1) split the difference now and get a cap at $46 million, or, 2)wait until this time next year in hopes of more concessions. They cannot possibly think they'd be better off with option #2.
You forgot option 3) Counter with a final offer of $42M cap and see how the vote comes out now that the PA has "something to vote on."