All eyes are now on Donald Fehr and the NHLPA.
As the 2012 NHL Lockout enters its second month, the league and its owners have finally prepared a CBA proposal worth talking about. After insulting the players with their initial offer, this one has at least hinted towards the league's willingness to compromise. But is this new proposal worth accepting?
It certainly represents a step in the right direction in an attempt to salvage an 82-game season. More than likely, the NHLPA will have prepared a counter-offer when the two sides reconvene again on Thursday.
But the league is kidding itself if they think the players are going to accept a deal that limits the length of contracts to five years. That stands out as the most unreasonable clause that the players are going to want to tweak.
However, the groundwork to an agreement has been laid. Let's look at three reasons why, given a few compromises, the players should accept this new CBA.
Gary Bettman's trying to shift the pressure to the players' side with this new offer.
The main sticking point throughout this negotiation has been how hockey-related revenue (HRR) would be split up between the players and the owners.
Last year, the players received 57 percent of all HRR. Compare that to the league's first offer, which had the players all the way down to 43 percent. You don't have to be a math whiz either to realize a 50-50 split meets both sides in the middle.
The problem here is the actual definition of HRR.
Of course, that differs depending on who you're speaking to. Unfortunately, their is no cut-and-dry answer to that.
Regardless, that comes off as a genuine concession from the league. And the players knew this was coming. They need to look at this as a partnership, because that's exactly what it is.
Under the proposed CBA, contract's like the one Ilya Kovalchuk signed wouldn't be allowed.
In this latest proposal, the NHL is clearly focused on keeping teams "honest" when it comes to the salary cap.
We've already talked about the fact that they want to limit contracts to five years or less. There are also clauses in there that would prevent teams from stashing overpaid players in the minors.
If their salary is more than $105,000, it's going to count against the cap. The immediate example that comes to mind is Wade Redden, who the New York Rangers have buried in the AHL the last two years despite his $5 million salary.
The league has also taken measures to clamp down on front-loaded or back-loaded contracts.
This clause would eliminate deals that pay a player $10 million in the first year but only $3 million in the last year. It would limit the fluctuation in salary from year-to-year to five percent, up or down.
None of these requests are unreasonable. Really what they're aimed at doing is leveling the playing field, which most players (especially ones on small-market teams) should embrace.
Hockey fans are not only loyal to their teams, but to the sport in general.
At least from a fan standpoint, the most encouraging part of the league's offer is that it would still allow for a full season to be played. Games would begin Nov. 2, three weeks later than when the season was supposed to start.
Obviously, team's schedules would be condensed. More than likely it would also require canceling this year's All-Star Game and break.
The NHL had already taken steps over the summer to limit travel. That could be huge if we see teams playing four or five games a week.
Unfortunately, any time a labor dispute occurs in professional sports, the two sides always seem to forget the "little guy" in the equation—the fans.
Hockey die-hards have been through a lot in the last nine years. The players owe it to them to accept the league has come to the table with a solid starting point by compromising to reach an agreement.
All this community wants back is the game they love. It's now on the players to give them that.