The players made a significant proposal to the NHL on Wednesday and despite the league’s issues with it, it’s a solid step in my opinion, one that hopefully leads to more talks and negotiation. Let’s take a look the NHLPA offer:

For the first time, the NHLPA offered a framework based on the league’s preferred system of a percentage linked to hockey-related revenue, instead of a system based on guaranteed dollars. In this case, the NHLPA agrees to go to 50 percent of HRR right from Year 1. However, a key line in the proposal bears underlying: “There are no guarantees or fixed targets, other than a requirement that, beginning with the second year of the Agreement, players’ share, expressed in dollars, may not fall below its value for the prior season.”

My take: The league will never accept that caveat. No guarantees, period. But the fact the union finally went to percentage-based offer is very important.

The NHLPA asks that the league fork over an additional $182 million in “make-whole” money (honoring existing players’ contracts) on top of the $211 million already offered by the league two weeks ago. Whereas the $211 million offered by the league would cover the two first seasons of the new CBA ($149 million/$62 million), the NHLPA proposes the $393 million be spread over four years:
2012-13 – $182M
2013-14 – $128M
2014-15 – $72M
2015-16 – $11M

My take: Too rich for the league’s blood, no question about it. One source told that commissioner Gary Bettman is already under pressure from owners to either scale down the $211 million that was previously offered or wipe it off the table altogether because of the damage cause by the lockout. So going north of $211 million is a tough sell for owners. Still, in order to get a deal done, couldn’t league at least push it up a bit?

Basically, the NHLPA has agreed to two of the league’s long lists of demands in this area: back-diving contracts and stashing players in the minors.

On the back-diving contracts (Roberto Luongo/Marian Hossa-type deals that have lower amounts in later years to avoid a cap hit), the union has offered a formula that would still charge teams with cap hits, even after the player retires, but only for deals that are nine years in length or longer. The NHL’s back-diving rule called for deals that were five years or longer. The other big difference is that the NHLPA’s proposal on back-diving is for contracts moving forward, NOT existing deals. So that would exclude the Luongo and Hossa deals, for example, whereas the NHL’s offer wants to go after those deals. This likely is still an issue to be ironed out.

As far as stashing players in the minors, the NHLPA’s offer suggests charging the NHL with cap hits for players stashed in the minors who make $1 million or more. The NHL’s offer called for a $105,000 threshold. I don’t see this being a big sticking point, either way.

Otherwise, the NHLPA proposal is saying “no, thanks” to all the other league contracting demands, such as changing the rules on UFA age, entry-level system arbitration, five-year term limits and the 5 percent salary variation rule. All of them were rejected by the NHLPA.

My take: The league is going to have to relent on trying to get all of their contract changes demands to get a deal done. But the union will have to make back-diving language reflect existing deals.

The union wants five years; the league wants at least six or seven years in length.

Pierre LeBrun