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New NHL proposal to NHLPA includes buyout clause, term limits on contracts

Greg Wyshynski
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When details spill about a new offer from either the NHL or the NHLPA, it usually means one of two things: That the offer has been rejected, and one side wants the world to witness the depths of its discarded charity; or it’s part of an ongoing, larger negotiation, with one side attempting to ladle public pressure on top of the new CBA offers.

So let’s hope it’s the latter, as details of a new NHL offer to the NHLPA emerge on Friday morning via Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun (and reported first by Eklund at 3:45 a.m., no less) including:

• The famed “amnesty buyout” is on the table. A one-time buyout would be given to each team prior to the 2013-14 season, whose money would not count against the salary cap but would count against the players’ share of Hockey Related Revenue (i.e. the cap hit wouldn’t matter, but the salary would).

• LeBrun reports that the NHL is asking for term limits on player contracts to be capped at six years, unless you’re signing your own drafted players, in which case the cap is seven years. (See, Jeremy Jacobs was actually going one year under the proposed limit in signing Tyler Seguin to a contract, like, 20 minutes before the lockout.)

Michael Russo reports that there will be a maximum 10 percent variances in salaries per year, up from 5 percent. This was the NHL's mechanism for preventing long-term cap circumventing contracts.

• LeBrun also reports that the NHL’s offer keeps the “make whole” at $300 million for the players, which would seem to indicate that the term of the next CBA remains at 10 years with an out at eight years.

This news leaks less than 24 hours after a League source told Helene Elliott of the LA Times that it would take "a new move or idea" for NHL talks to re-start.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement:

"In light of media reports this morning, I can confirm that we delivered to the Union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA late yesterday afternoon. We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the Union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."

So what does this offer mean?

It could mean that the NHL senses there’s an appetite for a settlement among the players, and that this set of “concessions” could be enough movement to spark some 'coming to the middle' from the NHLPA side.

Or it could mean that we’re still very much on Donald Fehr’s timeline.

The NHL has made several proposals in the last 90 days, and each time has seemingly moved on issues toward the NHLPA side of the bargaining table. Fehr believes, ultimately, that the NHL and its owners don’t have the stomach to cancel another season. He believes there is a deadline for whether there’s enough time to hold a viable 2012-13 season. He’s got decertification looming over the entire process.

It’s encouraging that the NHL wants to get something done. Question is how far Fehr is going to edge the League towards the ledge before accepting, given that a deal is well in reach for these two sides. Because there still isn't a compelling reason for the NHLPA to settle now, given the state of negotiations.

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