TORONTO -- The NHLPA didn't just toss NHL commissioner Gary Bettman an olive branch to save the season, it offered him the whole tree during a meeting yesterday at the Air Canada Centre.
While many players weren't happy with the proposal by union boss Bob Goodenow and the executive committee, the NHLPA has given Bettman a chance to save the season.
"I definitely think this could be something they should accept," said Dallas winger Bill Guerin, a vice-president on the executive committee. "I can't speculate on what the league is thinking. We definitely feel this is one heck of an offer and something that could work for everybody."
Everyone knew the players were going to take a major step with the 250-page proposal they gave to the owners yesterday in the first bargaining session since Sept. 9, but nobody envisioned anything like this.
Not only did they propose, as expected, changes to the arbitration system, revenue sharing, a luxury tax and the entry-level system, the players agreed to take a 24% rollback in their salaries.
Under the proposal, the total salaries of the Senators players would be reduced from $41 million to $31 million this season (all terms US). The union estimates the league as a whole would save more than $528 million over the next three years.
"I spoke with Todd White and he was shocked to say the least," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We felt that we had to do something because we want to get back to playing hockey.
"We talked about this for a long time. This surprised a lot of people."
No kidding. The players have thrown the ball firmly into Bettman's court, but it probably won't go any further than that -- the NHL will likely reject the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday.
It won't be thrown out in its entirety. An NHL source suggested last night the offer should be regarded "as a step forward and progress" in the negotiations, but claimed "this isn't a long-term solution. This is a band-aid and we can't have a band-aid to fix our problems."
Bettman told reporters he will have to read the entire offer before deciding on a response by the NHL.
"We have a firm set of beliefs of what we need to do to get our system in place. If (yesterday's) process ends with the union going over line-by-line their proposal, I would question their motives. My hope is this has been a serious attempt by the union for a solution that we can respond to in a serious way."
'NO GRANDSTAND PLOY'
Goodenow didn't like that accusation.
"Let me be very, very clear on this: This is no grandstand ploy. This is no (public relations) move. This is serious negotiations," he said. "I frankly think the insinuation that it's otherwise is harmful to the process."
Bettman didn't sound like a man who would break.
"The process we're engaged in isn't about saving the season, it's about saving 30 teams long-term," he said. "Nobody wants to play more than I do, but we've got to have the right deal."