SUN Hockey Pool

This just might work

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

The players won't like it because it has the dreaded 'C' word -- cap.

The owners probably won't like it because their desired cost certainty isn't guaranteed right away.

Sounds like the perfect solution, doesn't it?

Time will tell if the reported new proposal from the NHL Players' Association that Trevor Linden apparently forwarded to Harley Hotchkiss yesterday in Chicago is good enough to end the NHL lockout that's now in Day 126.

Still, they may be on to something.

Talks continue today in Toronto.

With both sides painted deep into their corners -- the players adamant they won't accept a deal with a hard salary cap; the owners insisting any new deal must have cost certainty -- it's hard to believe there's any solution that would bring a new collective bargaining agreement.

Not unless one side totally capitulates -- and we're not banking on that happening.

However, a deal that reportedly goes three years without a cap (likely based on the players' proposal from December that included an across-the-board 24% rollback of all salaries and bonuses as well as various other concessions) but allows the owners to implement one at that time if they feel the system is not fixed well enough could do the job.

Off the hop, it would allow both sides to save face.

After all, the players can still get their way yet turn around and say they're willing to go one extra mile if need be.

(By the way, does anyone find it curious most, if not all, of the members of the NHLPA executive -- Linden, Bob Boughner, Arturs Irbe, Daniel Alfredsson, Bill Guerin, Vincent Damphousse and Trent Klatt --will likely be gone from the NHL by the time said cap could kick in?)

And the owners, who have received a litany of concessions already from their employees, will end a lockout that -- should it last a whole season -- could very well knock the sport right off the map in the U.S. and alienate the diehard fans it has in Canada and select areas south of the border.

When he returned to Calgary late last night to attend today's funeral for J.R. (Bud) McCaig, Hotchkiss, the Flames part-owner and chairman of the NHL's board of governors, said he couldn't comment on any developments from yesterday's meeting at O'Hare Airport.

"The process continues," Hotchkiss said. "I give Trevor Linden credit for calling the meeting. We had a good, informal discussion with a good exchange of views."

Now, fans will wonder if it's good enough.

Maybe the owners will use it as a framework to gain something a little more stringent on the salary structure.

However, seeing as they feel a golden chance was lost 10 years ago when they didn't push hard enough for their way, it's likely the owners and Gary Bettman will reject the proposal.

However, for now there's a glimmer of hope. Seeing as there was next to none 24 hours ago, that's a step in the right direction.


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