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Lightning's Crombeen on NHL proposal: Caution still needed

B.J. Crombeen wants to believe the NHL's latest offer will be the turning point that leads to a new collective bargaining agreement and an end to the 105-day NHL lockout.

But the Lightning right wing, a member of the Players' Association negotiating committee, is not ready to go all in. That despite the league's 300-page proposal made Thursday in which it moved some of its positions closer to those of the union.

"It's encouraging to see them take steps toward us. There's a sense of optimism for that," Crombeen said. "But having said that, if they're going to continue to negotiate with take it or leave it, I wouldn't be overly optimistic."

Several reports said the league, under pressure from several owners who do not want the season canceled, hopes to start at least a 48-game season by Jan. 19. If so, a CBA would need to be agreed to by about Jan. 5 to allow about a week for paperwork to be finalized and at least a seven-day training camp.

If that timetable isn't met, the season might be lost. Games through Jan. 14 and the Jan. 27 All-Star Game are gone.

"If they're actually willing to talk," Crombeen said, "I think there's a deal to be done."

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly, in a statement, said the NHL is "not prepared to discuss the details" of its "new, comprehensive proposal."

But specifics were leaked:

• A six-year limit on contracts, though teams can sign their own free agents for seven. The league previously offered a five-year limit. Players propose an eight-year limit.

• Salary variability of 10 percent from year-to-year within contracts. The league previously proposed 5 percent. Players propose a 25 percent high-low range.

• One player buyout in summer 2013 that would not count against the salary cap. The league previously resisted this because, as Daly said, it would be "money outside the system."

There are still points of contention.

The league wants a 10-year CBA with a re-open option after eight years. Players want an eight-year deal with a six-year re-opener.

Because there will not be salary rollbacks, players are concerned about potentially large escrow deductions from their checks. Those are supposed to ensure that players do not receive more than the 50 percent of league revenue to which they will be entitled, down from 57 percent.

The league also proposes realignment for 2013-14.

Crombeen confirmed the sides likely will speak by phone today and could meet Sunday. If so, it would be their first meetings since Dec. 13.

"By them moving on a few things, it doesn't get a deal done just like that," Crombeen said. "There are a lot of issues, but we always felt since those meetings a few weeks ago that we were fairly close and if we had a partner willing to meet with us a deal will get done.

"We're hopeful this is a sign they're willing to do that. Only time will tell."

Lightning's Crombeen on NHL proposal: Caution still needed 12/28/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 10:39pm]

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