NHL issues proposal to players

Updated: August 29, 2012, 2:32 AM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Six weeks after its initial proposal, the NHL submitted a second one to the NHL Players' Association on Tuesday when the two sides met for labor talks at the league's offices in Manhattan.

A source aware of the league's proposal said the six-year deal would include a re-definition of hockey-related revenue and a phased yearly reduction of that revenue for the players from where it currently stands at 57 percent to 50 percent percent by the fourth year, where it would stay for the remaining three years. The league's initial proposal asked the players to scale back immediately to 43 percent.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the latest one was a counterproposal to the one the NHLPA unveiled earlier this month. Bettman said this pact included "meaningful" movement and addressed core economic issues that could bring about a labor stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15.

Two people briefed on the new deal disputed Bettman's claim and, as one told ESPNNewYork.com, the latest proposal is expected to bring about "little change."

The deal would also include a "fixed" salary cap of $58 million in the first year of the agreement, followed by $60 million in year two and $62 million in year three. The salary cap in 2011-2012 was $64.3 million, a number that was projected to increase to $70.2 million next season.

Although the NHL's latest proposal did not ask for any player salary rollbacks -- a major sticking point in its first proposal -- it is believed that the league would rely on an increase in escrow and projected league-revenue growth to compensate.

The league's counter-proposal appears to feature concessions from the first, but skepticism remains that the new components will bridge what is believed to be a significant gulf between the two sides on the core economic principles.

Bettman stated earlier this month the league intends to lock out the players if no new deal is reached by Sept. 15.

"It is a proposal we believe is significant and has meaningful movement," Bettman said. "It was also designed to address issues that they raised with us and to address the proposal they last made to us in terms of structure and format."

The players' association's original counterproposal featured three years' worth of hockey-related revenue concessions made by players, who would partner with owners of some of the financially strong organizations to form a revenue-sharing system that could help the struggling franchises.

That proposal also included an option year, when the players could revert to the current system of hockey-related revenue.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr declined to discuss the ways in which the league's latest proposal was different from the first one submitted July 13. That one proposed the players make multiple financial concessions, including salary givebacks, a decreased share of hockey-related revenue and a change to entry-level contracts.

Fehr said the union will take Tuesday night to analyze the new information before reconvening Wednesday afternoon.

"What we need to do with the players tomorrow, obviously, is to review what our thoughts are and discuss with them what the possible alternatives for a response are and come up with one that we think is best representative of what's in the players' interest and, at the same time, can hopefully move talks along," Fehr said.

Fehr and his brother, union special counsel Steve Fehr, had a brief meeting with Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly Tuesday morning before breaking for several hours to discuss the proposal with union representatives.

The NHLPA contingent, including players Ron Hainsey, Douglas Murray and Mathieu Darche, returned later in the afternoon to inform the league they'd take Tuesday night to review the proposal.

Darche said he was "encouraged" that the two sides were talking, but said it was "too early to characterize" the league's latest offer.

More players are expected to arrive in New York, where talks are scheduled to continue for the rest of the week.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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