The NHL made a new offer to the NHL Players' Association on Friday in hopes of saving a season on the brink of cancellation.
The league's proposal increases limit on player contracts to six years from the previous offer of five years and increases the year-to-year salary variance, among other things. The main sticking point, however, remains when the owners and players will cripple the sport again with another lockout.
"The NHL insists, and will not budge on this, that the next lockout be in 2017-2018," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "However, the players want it no earlier than 2021-2022, which is not something we are comfortable with. More than eight years of labor peace? Not on our watch."
Commissioner Gary Bettman insists that any more than seven consecutive full seasons will cause the NHL's revenues, ratings and popularity to grow too large, leaving the league with "difficult decisions on how to share the wealth."
Bettman, and the owners, believe it is better to "essentially shut hockey down every few years to reset our fiscal books and keep everything nice and small."
Donald Fehr, the players' lead negotiator, says he will ask for a compromise that cancels the 2019-2020 season now.
"If we go ahead and announce our next lockout today, fans can prepare for it and not get too emotionally invested in hockey, only to have it pulled out from under them unannounced," said Fehr. "In fact, I see no reason we can't go ahead and schedule all of our upcoming cancelled seasons through the middle of this century."