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Fehr questions NHL’s offer

TORONTO – NHL players’ union head Donald Fehr says management’s latest proposal would cost his members more than $1.6 billion over six years.

In a letter to players and agents, Fehr said the proposal owners made this week in what they said was an attempt to preserve a full 82-game schedule was an improvement over previous management offers but “represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners.”

“Simply put, the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights,” Fehr said in the letter, according to a report by TSN. “As you will see, at the five percent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion. What do the owners offer in return?”

In the midst of their third lockout since 1994, owners gave the union on Tuesday what the league called a “proposal to save 82-game season.” The NHL said it hoped a deal would be reached by Oct 25 and the season would start by Nov. 2, three weeks behind schedule. The sides are scheduled to meet again Thursday.

“We do not yet know whether this proposal is a serious attempt to negotiate an agreement, or just another step down the road,” Fehr wrote. “The next several days will be, in large part, an effort to discover the answer to that question.”

The NHL released details of its offer Wednesday, a day after giving it to the union. The proposal is for a six-year deal with a mutual option for a seventh. The plan includes a 50-50 split in hockey related revenue and a provision to ensure players receive all of the money they’ve been promised on existing contracts.

The offer includes:

• A listed salary cap of $59.9 million for the 2012-13 season, with a provision teams could spend up to $70.2 million during a transition season.

• Changing eligibility for unrestricted free agency from age 27 or seven years of service to age 28 or eight years of service, down from 10 years of service in the league’s earlier proposal.

• Increasing eligibility for salary arbitration from four years to five years.

• Including all years of existing contracts beyond five years against a team’s cap, regardless of where a player is playing. If a player is traded and retires or stops playing, the applicable cap charge would be applied against the team that originally signed the contact.

• The reduction of entry-level contracts to two years.

• A term limit on any contract beyond that set at five years and a stipulation that the average annual value can only vary up to five percent. This is a mechanism designed to eliminate long-term, back-loaded contracts.

• The elimination of re-entry waivers.

• Increasing the annual revenue sharing pool by 33 percent to $200 million, assuming annual league revenue of $3.033 billion, with a provision that half the pool be funded by the 10 teams with the highest gross revenue. A cutout against clubs in large media markets, such as Anaheim, New Jersey and the New York Islanders, would be eliminated. A new revenue sharing committee, which would include NHLPA representation, would have input to determine distribution.

Among the items not addressed in the league’s public detailing of its offer was realignment, drug testing or the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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