Hal Steinbrenner emerged from a closed-door meeting yesterday with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi to state the Yankees are willing to make a “significant long-term contract” offer to retain Robinson Cano.

Think of this like a heavyweight throwing a feel-‘em-out jab in the early rounds. Because this negotiation is nothing if not a battle of heavyweights. Biggest agent (Scott Boras). Biggest franchise (Yankees). One of the greatest players in the world (Cano).

As previous encounters in this genre have demonstrated, we are merely in the rhetoric phase. Both sides will profess love for the other to try to keep the temperature down and win the public relations battle.

Nevertheless, they will project inflexibility in their financial positions and a willingness to divorce if necessary as a way to make the other side flinch first. If history is our guide, no one should expect any flinching for quite a while.

Here is an educated guess on the early rounds: The Yanks will show willingness to pay Cano top-market dollars, but limit the length of an extension (think seven years in the $170 million-to-$175 million range) while Boras will counter Cano is a franchise player who should fall into the Joey Votto (10 years at $225 million)/Albert Pujols (10 years at $240 million) realm.

Can that gap be bridged between now and November when Cano will become a free agent? I would put the chances of it occurring in spring training at near zero and during the season at no more than 10 percent.

And, really, the key issues now are what we don’t know publicly:

1. Are the Yankees really feeling so burned by Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million monstrosity (negotiated with Boras) they just will not do those kinds of terms again any time soon? Or, ultimately, will dollars be damned because the organization will never risk hurting the brand by allowing a homegrown star in his prime to leave?

2. Has Cano unleashed Boras to get him the last penny — which could lead him out of town — or has he told his agent to push and prod the Yankees to their top dollar, but at the end to keep him in pinstripes because being a career-long Yankee matters to Cano now and in retirement more than anything?