One day after the NHL made an unexpected offer in an attempt to salvage a full 82-game season, several members of the Washington Capitals expressed cautious optimism as meaningful negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement resumed Tuesday.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," forward Matt Hendricks said after participating in an informal workout with several teammates Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. "It's not exactly something to be overly excited about right now -- there's a lot of fine print in their proposal -- but it's a step in the right direction."
Over a month had passed since the NHL last made an official proposal to the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA); on Sept. 13, the league's final pre-lockout offer left the union unsatisfied, and since 11:59 p.m. ET Sept. 15, the NHL has been locked out for the third time in 18 years and the second time in the past eight.
The NHL's latest proposal (which is available in its entirety on the league's official website) calls for a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue (HRR), which is a large increase over the league's initial proposal from July, which wanted players' share of HRR to plummet from 57 percent to 46 percent, among other things. The league also backed down on other pressing issues, most notably a 24-percent rollback on salaries that was considered by the NHLPA to be a non-starter.
All of the provisions outlined in the NHL's offer, however, are contingent on the season starting Nov. 2 with a week-long training camp preceding that. According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the two sides "have about nine or 10 days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward."
Hendricks said that a quick turnaround to start the season Nov. 2 is "doable," but it seems unlikely that he and the rest of the league's players will have to worry about that. While Tuesday's offer was a significant development, it also contains several concessions that players would have to make, from the aforementioned cut in HRR and how escrow would play into it to contractual changes like a lower salary cap ceiling and a five-year maximum length for contracts.
"Simply put, the owners' new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told players and agents in a letter obtained by TSN's Bob McKenzie. "The proposal does represent movement from their last negotiating position, but still represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners, in salary and benefits and in individual player contracting rules."
"We still take a lot of concessions in the deal, so it's a lot to look over," forward Jason Chimera said, echoing Fehr's sentiment. "We're taking the time to mull it over and look at things. Hopefully, it's a good step in the process."
In the explanation of its proposal, the NHL spoke about the importance of "our fans," which is the rare common ground that both sides have found throughout the process. While some supporters may have lost faith in the league for its continued work stoppages, the players hope that if and when the 2012-13 season begins, those same fans come back and support their respective clubs.
"Obviously, the sport relies on the fans, especially here in D.C.," forward Jay Beagle said. "We have the best fans, it's a huge fan base. It's exciting to play here and I sure hope this doesn't deter anyone from supporting us and coming out to watch hockey. And I don't think it will.
"If it gets done soon and we get 82 games in, that would be amazing. I think that's what everyone wants It's gettng closer. At least they're talking. Yesterday was obviously a positive."
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