Just when it appeared the curtains were closing on a 2012-13 NHL campaign, commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners stepped up to the plate Tuesday afternoon with a proposal to save the season in its 82-game entirety. It was the first offer from either the owners or Players' Association in over a month.
The league's proposal includes a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue and "includes a deferred salary plan" whereby ensuring that players receive money they're due in existing contracts. Under this plan, the regular season would start Nov. 2, and there would be a week-long training camp. Extra games would fit in once every five weeks.
Bettman called it the owners' 'best shot' to preserve the season, acknowledging that the deal would have to be completed in full within nine or 10 days to accomplish that.
According to Sportsnet's John Shannon, beyond the schedule and revenue aspects, the new proposal says unrestricted free agency would hit for players at age 28 or eight years of service, which is one year longer than it is now, and the longest contract lengths that players can sign is five years. Shannon says the length on existing contracts would remain "intact" and that entry-level deals will stay at three years.
The NHLPA and NHL have yet to set up a new meeting date, but it's expected to come in a day or two, after the union has reviewed and discussed the proposal. With the amount of shots thrown at each side over the past month -- plus a whole lot of going-through-the-motions negotiating -- this offer is a very promising sign that the owners are serious about playing hockey this year.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr alluded to as much:
"What our hope is is that after we review this that there will be a feeling on the players' side that this is a proposal from which we can negotiate and try and reach a conclusion," Fehr said, according to The Washington Times. "I would like to believe that after were done with this that it will be an excellent starting point and we can go forward and see if there's a deal to be made."
Shannon's source believes that the biggest hang-up in this offer could be capping free-agent contracts at five years, though, if what Bettman says is to be believed, this is a "long-term" collective-bargaining agreement that the players (and fans) have sought, thus they may be willing to take concessions on this component.
Regardless, the lack of backlash from Fehr and the players who have spoken out so far (whether that's in reports or on their personal Twitter accounts) is promising. There's finally legitimate movement, and, dare we say a breath of fresh air in these labor negotiations?