For Lightning star Steven Stamkos, negotiations between the league and the Players' Association come down to this:
"We just want a fair deal."
The union believes it delivered that Tuesday in Toronto, with executive director Donald Fehr calling the proposal to the owners an "alternate view" that could "stabilize the industry."
Twenty-three players, including Stamkos and fellow stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, attended the meeting.
"It just shows that we're in support of the union," Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times.
"If you look at the last deal (after the 2004-05 lockout), a lot of people said the players took a big hit in their salary, which they did. We're trying to find a way we can minimize that from a player's perspective but also help the league. We're trying to be in partnership with the teams that are really doing well financially and trying to partner with them to help some of the teams that are maybe struggling."
The union's proposal apparently is for three years with an option for a fourth.
• Fehr told reporters players are willing to reduce their share of league revenues by $460 million to $800 million depending on how fast revenues grow.
• Canada's RDS Network said the union agreed to keep the hard salary cap the owners want but, despite a Canadian Press report, did not propose a luxury tax on teams that overspend.
• The Toronto Sun reported the union wants to keep current rules for player salaries, contract lengths and free-agent eligibility.
• The owners' proposal reportedly cuts the players' share of revenues from 57 to 46-43 percent, reduces salaries 22 percent, extends entry-level contracts from three to five years, caps all contracts at five years and awards unrestricted free agency after 10 years instead of seven.
The CBA expires Sept. 15. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who said the league needs "a little time" to respond to the union's proposal, has indicated players will be locked out if no agreement is reached. Talks continue today.
"The proposal the players made, once implemented, can produce a stable industry … that gives us a chance to move beyond the recurring labor strife that has plagued the NHL the last two decades," Fehr said.
"That was the message," Stamkos said, "trying to find a medium where we can help those higher-income teams and help some of the teams who are struggling and find a way we can do that where both parties will be happy. Both parties want to start the season on time. We saw what can happen with previous (work stoppages) and we don't want that. We just want a fair deal that can hopefully start the season on time."
Tuesday's meeting was the first attended by Stamkos, 22, who made the easy drive from his home in Unionville, a Toronto suburb.
"For the young players of the league this new agreement is going to affect us," the center said. "It's important for players to take an interest and learn as much as we can and be involved in this process."