SUN Hockey Pool

Players pitch a shocker

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

TORONTO -- NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow produced a shocker for Gary Bettman and the NHL yesterday -- as well as for his own rank and file.

In a stunning move during a meeting at the Air Canada Centre, the players offered the NHL a whopping across-the-board 24% pay cut on all existing contracts in a bid to end the lockout.

That proposal, the NHLPA estimated, would save the league $528 million (all terms US) over the next three years.

"I find that number shocking. That's a lot of money and it's money that we feel we've earned," Senators defenceman Wade Redden said. "I'm sure there will be some guys (upset) with the decision, but we know why we're doing this. We're doing this because we want to play hockey."

Under the proposal, Redden's salary would be cut from $4.7 million to $3.525 million this season.

"I'm surprised the cut is that high. That's almost a quarter of your salary," he said. "But we fully support the decision by the people in our leadership. We want to get back to playing."

LUXURY TAX

The NHLPA estimates that their entire proposal -- which includes changes to revenue sharing, salary arbitration, the entry-level system and a luxury tax -- will save the league $1 billion over a six-year term.

Sources say the players can expect to receive a proposal from the NHL that will still try to link revenue to expenses, which could be a salary cap. The players have said they will not accept a salary cap.

The two sides are expected to meet again on Tuesday, likely in Toronto.

"We could have simply rejected it and walked out and that would have been the end of it," Bettman, the NHL commissioner, told reporters. "Because of the rollback issue and the amount of paper, we wanted to make sure we took a look at it and give the appropriate response. We will have a counterproposal.

'ONE-TIME ELEMENT'

"The one-time element is obviously an essential ingredient of implementing a system. It's a one-time element and we really have to focus on the system issues. There was a significant issue on a one-time basis."

Bettman said the weakness of the new offer was its inability to link salaries to revenue.

If that means the NHL will continue to pursue a salary cap, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson warned there won't be a season.

"If they say they want a guaranteed link, then there likely won't be hockey this year," said Alfredsson, who would give up $7 million of his new five-year, $32.5-million deal under the players' proposal.

"We felt that this was the most that we could give and we feel this is serious. If we weren't serious, we wouldn't have done this. We feel this is an offer that can solve the league's problems."

The union says it has nothing else to give.

"There's no time left to give a half-assed deal. This is our full proposal," said union vice-president Bob Boughner of the Colorado Avalanche. "We've sat and had a lot of battles about this in the last month internally. This is the most we're going to go.

"We're not going to bend over any more," he said. "All we've done is give, and give and give. This has got to stop. This proposal has brought us to the edge. Enough is enough.

"If it's not accepted, then there probably won't be a season."


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