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Jet sees reason for optimism Ladd looking forward

Captain hopeful NHL's latest offer sparks serious negotiations

The NHL's newest offer to end a month-long lockout will not be the final deal if there's one to be made.

That was the consensus of a National Hockey League Players' Association conference call late Tuesday, when executive director Donald Fehr and PA officials spelled out the details received in the league's latest proposal.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS archives
Locked out Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd says he anticipates a counter proposal from the players.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS archives Locked out Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd says he anticipates a counter proposal from the players.

"I definitely think guys are happy another proposal was made and hopefully it leads to something more. That's the best way to put it," was how Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd gauged the mood of the call.

"We're discussing internally the best way to move forward. Hopefully something comes out of that in the next 24 or 48 hours."

That sounds like a counter proposal could be coming.

"We haven't decided yet," Ladd said. "It's still early and we're still discussing.

"But we're talking about it and hopefully we'll come up with something in the next 24 hours."

The league put a number of elements on the table Tuesday, including a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, aiming to try to save a full 82-game season and playoffs if games could start by Nov. 2.

The NHL was hopeful that was appealing enough to players to engage on this proposal. The impetus for both sides, a league source said, was to prevent business damage to this season as well as to next.

"But there's not a lot of wiggle room here," the source said.

The NHLPA will certainly need some, if Ladd's assessment of Tuesday's conference call is correct.

"(This proposal) is a little different than before, a few things are kind of coming our way from where they were before," he said. "It was good for us to see.

"I think that coming up to 50 (per cent) is closer. This probably should have been their starting point. I don't know why it took so long to get to this point. But it is definitely that they're coming more our way and hopefully it's something we both can negotiate off of and get to a deal so we can start playing hockey."

Behind the NHL's 50-50 HRR split, there's a proposal for a system to compensate players for the full value of their existing contracts should reduced payroll levels require a cut in their deals.

The salary cap could drop to between $60 million to $63 million (from this summer's temporary $70.2 million, under which many deals were signed), depending on who's numbers you believed.

Any salary cut, the league proposed, would become deferred compensation but would be paid back to players. But the NHLPA believes that all of that deferred pay will simply come out of the players' share of revenues, leaving less money for all future contracts.

"That's kind of smoke and mirrors on their part, a little bit," Ladd said on that point. "That, for us, wasn't great to see."

Ladd said he expected to be speaking to a number of his Jets teammates about the details on Tuesday night.

And he said not all the news he had to relay to them was negative.

One example of that was the NHL has proposed a revenue-sharing pool of $200 million, an increase on its last proposal.

"It's another step towards what we want," Ladd said. "We've said all along it should be a shared commitment. But it's positive. We'd still like them to come farther but it's all part of negotiating.

"At the end of the day, we're still giving up a lot of concessions here and there's not really much coming back in our direction. But they have come farther and hopefully it leads to more negotiating and discussing and give and take."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2012 C4

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