Can the NHL's full 82-game schedule be saved?
Commissioner Gary Bettman thinks so after the league put forth a new, surprise proposal both sides hope jump-starts serious negotiations that could end the monthlong lockout.
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The new offer to the NHL Players Association calls for a 50-50 split of revenues between owners and players and addressed the union's concern that a reduction from the current level of 57 percent would result in higher escrow payments, according to Bettman.
There also would be no salary rollbacks for the players.
The offer was made with an eye on starting a full 82-game regular season Nov. 2.
"We 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," Bettman said.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr acknowledged the proposal was stronger than the previous ones the union had received but declined further comment until he had more time to review the document and present it to the executive board.
A counterproposal is expected from the union either Wednesday or Thursday.
"I would like to believe that it will be an excellent starting point and we can go forward and see if there is a deal to be made," Fehr said.
"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."
According to a Canadian Press source, there is a maximum contract length of five years. The new league offer also called for unrestricted free agency to come into effect at age 28 or after eight years of service -- one year later than the last CBA.
"If we didn't do it now, if we didn't put an offer on the table that we thought was fair and could get us playing hockey … then it probably wasn't going to happen for a while," Bettman said. "It's done in the spirit of getting a full season in."
The NHL already had postponed the first two weeks of the season.
Blackhawks player rep Steve Montador cautioned not to get too excited about the season possibly starting soon.
"It was encouraging that they came off their initial offer," Montador told CSNChicago.com. "It's something hopefully we can work with and try to get some common ground, but there still work to be done.
"It's a starting point."
If the season were to begin Nov. 2, the Hawks would open against Nashville on that night and play at Toronto the next night.
How the developments of Tuesday affect the charity game Hawks players were planning for Oct. 26 at the Allstate Arena isn't known.
The "Champs for Charity" game will include many of the players off the 2010 Stanley Cup team and benefit the Ronald McDonald House charities of Chicago and northeast Indiana.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland have committed to play from the current team.
Also expected to play are former Hawks Brian Campbell, Adam Burish, Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and John Madden.
Other NHLers who have committed to play are James Wisniewski, Craig Anderson, Ryan Suter, Jack Johnson, Jared Boll, Tom Gilbert and Alex Goligoski.
Tickets will be offered at the $10, $15, $30 and $60 levels.
There also will be 100 $500 VIP tickets, which will include a glass seat, event jersey and a pregame meet-and-greet with players. All tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster.com beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday.