The NHL has finally decided that it's time to take collective bargaining agreement negotiations seriously - and in doing so, has put the ball back in the court of the players' association.
The league tabled a new offer Tuesday designed to end the month-long lockout and fit in a full season - something both sides have expressed an interest in doing. The offer represents the first significant movement made by other side in what had become an unnerving stalemate that threatened to eliminate the entire 2012-13 campaign.
According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the league's proposal promises a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue across the board, while eliminating the salary rollback the owners had been pushing for in previous offers. The deal also includes mechanisms that would allow players who have already lost money for games lost this season to recoup that income over the course of the new CBA.
Bettman is hopeful that a quick ratification of the new deal would allow for training camps to begin Oct. 25, with the regular season kicking off eight days later. The 82-game schedule would be preserved, with each team playing one extra game every five weeks.
"We hope we've given our best shot," Bettman told reporters after talks between the league and the players' association ended Tuesday afternoon.
Union leader Donald Fehr had little to say during his news conference - admitting he hadn't had much time to go over the proposal - but called the offer an "excellent starting point." He followed that up by cautioning against being too optimistic, suggesting the deal was an extensive one and would need to be combed over by the NHLPA's executive committee before warranting a response.
The timing of the proposal - the first made by either side since before the lockout began - is interesting. It comes one day after news leaked that the NHL had been employing top Republican Party strategist Frank Luntz to lead a focus group aimed at helping the league rebuild its image.
The leak did nothing to bolster the NHL's standing in the eyes of the fans, and some have wondered if the debacle helped facilitate the league's latest offer in an attempt to save face.
The NHLPA has scheduled a meeting for late Tuesday afternoon to go over the proposal. It isn't clear whether the union will seek to resume meetings with the league later Tuesday, or wait until Wednesday or Thursday to get back in touch.