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NHL offer tries to salvage full season

| Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, 2:24 p.m.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters following collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP)

The NHL ended a 34-day stalemate Tuesday, making its boldest move yet to play a full season and passing the puck to the players' union to finish the play.

Commissioner Gary Bettman's proposal, made at a meeting with union executive director Donald Fehr in Toronto, called for an immediate 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue. That differs dramatically from the NHL's initial proposal this summer that had the players' cut slashed from 57 to 43 percent.

Recent labor agreements in the NFL and NBA centered around revenue splits near 50/50.

This offer raised hopes across the sport that the owners' lockout, which began Sept. 12, could end soon enough to begin the regular season Nov. 2.

“We certainly hope it will,” Bettman said. “We've given it our best shot.”

Bettman laid out the Nov. 2 scenario, one in which training camps would need to begin Oct. 26. That leaves, in essence, nine days in which a new collective bargaining agreement must be reached, at least in principle.

Fehr said he “hoped it would be an excellent starting point,” adding that the parties “can go forward and see if there's a deal to be made.”

Fehr said the union prefers to examine the league's proposal in detail before reacting. He said he expects a reaction “sooner rather than later.” An executive committee meeting took place late Tuesday.

The league was represented at the morning meeting by Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Fehr was joined by his brother and union general counsel, Steve Fehr.

A compressed schedule would feature an additional game for each NHL club every five weeks. The Penguins would open the season Nov. 2 at Columbus, the start of a four-game road trip. Edmonton would visit Consol Energy Center for the home opener Nov. 10.

As a measure to guarantee current contracts — a must for players, Penguins union rep Craig Adams has said — the NHL would allow team payrolls to exceed the salary cap this season. The cap would drop from about $70 million to around $58 million because of the new revenue split.

Several Penguins players, including Sidney Crosby, practiced Tuesday morning at Southpointe. There was expressed optimism for a new offer from the NHL, but Crosby admitted that was a gut feeling.

“I'm sure there's some way you can figure it out,” Crosby said. “I think there's a deal that in some way benefits both sides. I don't know exactly what that entails, but I think it's in the best interest of everyone to make that happen.”

Crosby said his plan for next week was to join “a lot” of other NHL players for training in Dallas. Those plans would change pending labor developments this week, Chris Kunitz said.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero said there is a “plan for a shortened training camp to begin immediately.” He would not divulge details, but NHL clubs have prepared for a camp of no fewer than seven days and one that would not include exhibition games.

The NHL considers many aspects of its new proposal non-negotiable — specifically terms of HRR split, and the cap system. However, the league is likely to move from a five-year max on veteran contracts and, perhaps, elimination of burying players on one-way contracts in the minors without a cap penalty.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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