New Proposal From NHL Owners Could Offer Enough Concessions To End Lockout; 48-Game Season Would Begin In Mid Jan.

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Hockey fans still clinging to hope that the NHL won’t cancel a second season in eight years have a new beacon of hope as the league owners have proposed another offer to the NHL Player’s Association. News of the offer broke on Friday morning, just days after the league announced the cancellation of the regular season schedule through Jan. 14.

Few of the major columnists in the hockey world expected the lockout to draw on as long as it has, seemingly underestimating the bullheadedness of each side. Fans have become discouraged about any hope for a season, but Friday’s offer from the NHL might indicate a willingness to bend on some of the sticking points of a new CBA.

Pierre LeBrun, of ESPN and TSN, reported that the NHL has moved on limits for signing players, easing from a five-year to a six-year contract maximum, seven years if a team is resigning its own player. Each team would also be allowed one buyout allowance before the 2013 season to count against the player’s Hockey Related Revenue, a mulligan for teams that regret overpaying a disappointing player in a long-term deal. That buyout would not count against the salary cap, only against a team’s bank account.

The NHL’s “make whole” agreement remained at $300 million, indicating the CBA would be at 10 years with an NHLPA opt-out option after eight years. Maximum salary variance between seasons would be 10 percent -- up from 5 percent-- a condition that would prevent long-term cap circumvention deals previously signed by Roberto Luongo, Ilya Kovalchuck, Marian Hossa, and others.

Entry-level deals and free agency remained virtually unchanged, although the signing period for unrestricted players could begin later, in July.

Michael Russo, of the Minnesota Star-Tribune, wrote that no meetings are scheduled between the union and NHL, but that’s likely to change with this proposal. If both sides agree on the CBA, reports indicated it irons out almost every necessary detail, a 48-game season could begin in late January.

After the NHLPA has made major concessions in past negotiations, this proposal seems to show a willingness on the NHL’s part to compromise. Multiple media outlets have reported owners that have been silent throughout negotiations have quietly been putting pressure on Gary Bettman, telling the commissioner another lost season is “unacceptable.”

This isn’t the first time fans (and columnists) have gotten excited, though. Both players and owners have criticized NHLPA boss Donald Fehr for not making enough of an effort to communicate with the rest of the union. Some players have been vocal about their desire to decertify the union, a strategy that would allow players to sue individual owners for breach of contract and would almost certainly end any hopes for the 2013 season and perhaps the following one.

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