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NHL makes new offer; lockout enters critical stage

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NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL's latest offer to the players' association was enough for the sides to make plans to meet this weekend.

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Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday the league presented its proposal Thursday. The sides haven't met in person since a second round of talks with a federal mediator broke down Dec. 13.

The NHL and the players' association are expected to talk via conference call on Saturday, and have tentative plans to meet Sunday in New York.

The league's comprehensive new offer, that is several hundred pages in length, was still being reviewed by the union Friday night. The players' association's executive board and negotiating committee went over the proposal during an internal conference call.

``We delivered to the union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA,'' Daly said in a statement Friday. ``We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.''

The league would like to have a deal in place by Jan. 11, begin training camps the following day and start the regular season by Jan. 19.

The lockout has reached its 104th day, and the NHL said it doesn't want a season of less than 48 games. That means a deal would need to be reached mid-January.

A person familiar with key points of the offer told The Associated Press that the league proposed raising the limit of individual free-agent contracts to six years from five - seven years if a team re-signs its own player; raising the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent, up from 5 percent; and one compliance buyout for the 2013-14 season that wouldn't count toward a team's salary cap but would be included in the overall players' share of income.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the new offer were not being discussed publicly.

The NHL maintained the deferred payment amount of $300 million it offered in its previous proposal, an increase from an earlier offer of $211 million. The initial $300 million offer was pulled off the table after negotiations broke off earlier this month.

The latest proposal is for 10 years, running through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years.

A conference call with the players' association's negotiating committee and its executive board was scheduled for Friday afternoon and was expected to last several hours.

The lockout has reached a critical stage, threatening to shut down a season for the second time in eight years. All games through Jan. 14, plus the Winter Classic and the All-Star game already have been called off. The next round of cuts could claim the entire schedule.

The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.

It is still possible this dispute could eventually be settled in the courts if the sides can't reach a deal on their own.

The NHL filed a class-action suit this month in U.S. District Court in New York in an effort to show its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, contending bad-faith bargaining by the union.

Those moves were made because the players' association took steps toward potentially filing a ``disclaimer of interest,'' which would dissolve the union and make it a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

Union members voted overwhelmingly to give their board the power to file the disclaimer by Jan. 2. If that deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a later filing.

Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended Dec. 6. One week later, the sides convened again with federal mediators in New Jersey, but still couldn't make progress.

The sides have been unable to reach agreement on the length of the new deal, the length of individual player contracts, and the variance in salary from year to year. The NHL is looking for an even split of revenues with players.

The NHL pulled its previous offers off the table after the union didn't agree to terms on its last proposal without negotiation.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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