'Offer can save season'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

TORONTO -- The NHL Players' Association won't let the season go "down the tubes" without a fight. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has accepted an offer from union boss Bob Goodenow to go back to the bargaining table next Thursday and Friday in Toronto in a last-ditch effort to reach a labour agreement.

NHLPA VP Daniel Alfredsson told the Sun yesterday that the union's new offer won't contain a salary cap, but the Senators winger is convinced once the details have been completed it is "a legitimate offer that can save the season."

NOT A 'STUNT'

"This is not a public-relations stunt," Dallas Stars winger Bill Guerin, a VP on the NHLPA's executive committee, told the Sun. "We've put a lot of work into this proposal and this isn't something we came up with overnight.

"We felt that we had to do something. We're getting down to crunch time and since the league isn't doing anything, we felt like we'd better do something before the whole season goes down the tubes. We've waited long enough for them to try to step up."

Though some league sources dismiss the union's move as "window dressing," it's believed Goodenow and NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin have made major concessions on a proposal they presented Sept. 9 to the league.

Sources say the highlights could include:

- A stiffer luxury tax than the one proposed on Sept. 9 with realistic thresholds starting at around $40 million (all terms US) and larger fines for teams that spend more than $60 million.

- A possible 10% rollback on salaries for all existing contracts. That means if Islanders centre Alexei Yashin has $65 million left on his deal, he would receive $59.5 million.

- A change to the arbitration system that's more favourable for the owners. One possibility is a baseball-type system where the NHLPA gives a number, the team gives a number and the arbitrator must choose one or the other.

- There also could be a change with the rookie salary cap placed at $850,000 and a lower bonus structure put in place.

"I'm not going to get into the specifics of the deal because it wouldn't do anybody any good," said Alfredsson. "We want to get a CBA in place that will help both sides do well."

DALY HOPEFUL

NHL VP Bill Daly, speaking before meeting with league GMs last night in New York, said he's hopeful the offer will bring a resolution. He said if the players' proposal includes a luxury tax component it doesn't mean talks will be called off.

"Not that a luxury tax would work, but we're not going to walk away from the table just because there's one in the offer. What we're looking for is a legitimate effort by the union that we feel addresses our issues," said Daly.

"I don't want to say I'm surprised the union set up the meeting, because I'm pleased. I just hope they're willing to put forward a good-faith effort with a proposal that will be able to help get something done. I'm disappointed that it took so long, but we're happy they're making the effort."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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