'Might be too much'

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Craig Conroy was bracing for a proposal that included a 10% pay cut.

Then he heard rumblings he and the rest of the players in the NHL would give an offer that included a 15% rollback.

Then came the real figure -- a startling 24%.

"That's not my favourite thing to see but what do you do?" said the former Flames captain. "It's quite a bit and it kinda shocked me when I first saw it. Just signing a four-year deal (with the Los Angeles Kings), I thought, 'Holy mackerel.'

"Guys wanted to make a substantial offer and wanted to get something they feel can solve it. In my opinion, this might be too much but I'm one of those guys who wants to get the game back.

"If (league officials) don't look at this and think it's a pretty good deal, I don't know what they want. This is pretty substantial."

(The Flames' current captain, Jarome Iginla, couldn't be reached for comment last night and has remained mum throughout the lockout, despite being the team's union rep.)

News travels fast through the world and it was at the speed of light throughout the NHLPA.

When word of the proposal spread, they were all calculating what this deal would cost them.

Conroy signed a contract worth $12.6 million US this past summer.

A 24% cut would lop off $3 million.

"I think there's mixed emotions from the guys. I don't think everything thinks it's a great deal for us to give up this much but if it gets us playing, I guess it is a good deal," said the affable centre, whose best years were in Calgary.

"I want to see what the NHL thinks about it."

That won't happen until next week.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said he'll get back to the NHLPA Tuesday after poring through the proposal. The version faxed to Conroy contained 236 pages.

In it, the NHLPA claims, are mechanisms that will save owners $1 billion over the six-year life of the deal. Among them are the salary rollback, limitations on qualifying offers, changes to the arbitration system, limitations on rookie contracts and bonus clauses and a payroll tax, which collects 20 cents per dollar above $45 million US, 50 cents at $50 million US and 60 cents at $60 million.

Bettman has maintained a new deal must have cost certainty -- a linkage of salaries to revenue. Time will tell if this deal is a starting point.

However, there are expectations the league will come back with a counter-proposal that includes a hard salary cap. Conroy believes that would certainly spell the end to a 2004-05 season.

"The guys would say, 'I don't think we can do it,' " he said.

"If they come back and say they want a hard cap, at least we can say, 'Hey we tried.' "

The rollback alone brings the average salary near the figure proposed by Bettman and company in their $31-million-cap deals offered in the fall, so it'll be interesting to see what the league does with this offer.

However, Conroy said, at a certain point the ownership side has to take responsibility for escalating salaries and learn to police itself.

"If they're strong enough to say, 'We're willing to lose a season,' then they're strong enough to say to a guy, 'I'm not going to pay you that much,' " he said. "The players know it's a new NHL and a new business world."

He and the 700-plus other players will wait with baited breath to see what happens next.

"I want to start right away."


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