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NHL makes movement on buyouts, contract length in new proposal to NHLPA

TORONTO, Ont. – The NHL has softened its demands in key areas of collective bargaining in a new proposal to the NHL Players’ Association.

With another season in jeopardy because of a labour dispute, the league tabled a comprehensive offer Thursday night that included compliance buyouts and less restrictive rules on player contracts.

According to sources, the league’s proposal calls for a six-year term limit on free-agent deals — up from five previously — and will allow teams to resign their own players for up to seven years.

It also includes a provision that salary can vary by 10 per cent from year to year during the course of a deal (the NHL’s most recent offer proposed a five per cent variance).

For the first time, the NHL is also willing to offer one-time compliance buyouts to help teams transition from a system that saw players receive 57 per cent of revenues to one that pays them 50 per cent.

The league has proposed giving each team one such buyout, with the money counting against the players’ overall share in revenue but not an individual team’s salary cap.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the existence of the new offer on Friday, but declined to comment on the details.

“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,” Daly said in a statement. “We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.”

The NHLPA’s negotiating committee and executive board was scheduled to hold an internal conference call on Friday afternoon to discuss the offer.

According to sources, the league’s proposal was comprehensive and included a number of the smaller issues that the sides discussed throughout the summer. It also put the US$300 million in deferred transition payments back on the table — something it had previously withdrawn when talks broke down on Dec. 6.

Negotiations have been at a standstill since then. In the meantime, the only movement has come from within the union as players voted to give their executive board the right to file a “disclaimer of interest” until Jan. 2. The 30-member committee is still pondering that decision.

The NHL and NHLPA have made no plans to meet face-to-face again.

The 104-day lockout has seen all regular-season games cancelled through Jan. 14 and it’s believed a deal needs to be reached by that point to salvage a 48-game schedule — the minimum commissioner Gary Bettman says must be played.

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