The NHL and its players' association have a bit more than two weeks remaining to figure out how to share all the money the game generates.
If that doesn't happen by Sept. 15, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires, the NHL is expected to lock out its players.
And, while there still is time to sculpt out a settlement that satisfies both sides, a deal won't happen until the parties decide precisely what constitutes the "hockey-related revenue" that is up for grabs.
NHLPA head Don Fehr said Wednesday that the most recent offer submitted by the league would change the way hockey-related revenue (HRR) is calculated, reducing the amount of money available to the players.
"Our preference is to keep the same definition of hockey-related revenue," Fehr told reporters after a negotiating session at the NHL offices.
Players received 57 percent of HRR under the CBA that will expire Sept. 15. Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman agree that that figure would be reduced to roughly 46 percent (as currently calculated) under a proposal the league put forth Tuesday.
"We promised to pay 57 percent [in the CBA now in place] and we honored it, but there was no sense it was baked in perpetuity," Bettman said.
He added that redefining "hockey-related revenues" is necessitated by current economic realities.
The NHLPA, as expected, did not accept the league's most recent offer, and Fehr said the union intends to turn in a counter-proposal today or Friday.
The league's plan calls for a $58 million salary-cap ceiling in 2012-13; it would be $70.2 million under the current agreement, and many teams have assembled their rosters using that figure.
Although the league's plan calls for increased escrow withholdings from players' earnings, the NHL has not specified how teams -- there are believed to be 16 -- exceeding the $58 million threshold would be expected to shrink their payroll.
"If I have to describe that, then we are in good shape," Bettman told reporters.
The salary-cap ceiling hardly is the only major issue that remains to be settled. The union and league aren't even close to agreeing on how long the next CBA should be. The NHL's most recent proposal was for six years; the NHLPA prefers one for three years and a option.
NOTES -- Penguins player representative Craig Adams and ex-Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski (now with Dallas) were among a contingent of 11 players to attend the negotiating session Wednesday, although no players were directly involved in the talks. ... Evgeni Malkin confirmed to reporters in Russia that he has an agreement to play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, his hometown team in the Kontinental Hockey League, if there is an NHL lockout. Malkin also considered playing for one of the KHL clubs in Moscow.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.