Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, considered the face of hockey, liked the proposal the NHL Players' Association presented to the league Wednesday. He called it "making a move in their direction."
The NHL had a different take on the offer, summed up in one word: No.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged the union's movement, a departure from past sniping between the sides. The league rejected the NHLPA's proposal, item by item, and there is no indication that the league and players are on the brink of a breakthrough.
Bettman said the sides are still "far apart," although he hopes the exchange Wednesday will lead to some momentum in negotiations as the owners-imposed lockout is about to reach 10 weeks. No Penguins attended the meetings in New York -- one in the morning to present the proposal, one in the afternoon for the league to respond.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr described his disposition after the talks as "disappointed."
It's not clear when the sides might meet again. The players held a conference call in the evening.
Bettman acknowledged the step the players took in submitting a full proposal but lamented that the league is losing $18 million to $20 million per day during the lockout. He said the players, collectively, are losing $8 million to $10 million a day.
The schedule has been canceled through the end of this month, and more cancellations are expected soon if there is no deal.
This is the first full proposal the union has made since the lockout began in mid-September. There were some key components, particularly in the area of core economics.
The NHLPA switched from suggesting a dollar-based collective bargaining agreement to one based on percentages of revenue, which is what the NHL has offered. In return, the players asked the league to increase its pay-in for the make-whole provision by $182 million, to $393 million. That money would be used to help ensure that existing player contracts are paid in full while the players' share of revenues drops from 57 percent under the previous CBA to around 50 percent.
The proposal includes a phase-in down to the 50-50 split.
Fehr said the offer, which is for five years, put the sides $182 million apart -- the difference in the make-whole model -- and that the proposal was "about as good as we can do to try and see if there's an agreement that can be reached."
Crosby was leaving the ice at Southpointe after a practice with six teammates about the time the morning meeting in New York was starting. He has followed the negotiations closely and believes the union's proposal, which he called a "hybrid" of what both sides have been pushing for, is strong enough to spark movement toward a settlement.
"It's a little closer to their proposal," Crosby said. "It's definitely something they'll have to consider, or they should at least.
"What we want back on the make-whole is not even close to what we're putting on the table, everything combined. We wanted progress, but it takes both sides. They're going to have to move a little bit, too. It just shows we all want to play."
Bettman indicated that the league will not make any more economic concessions.
The NHLPA proposal called for the salary cap to be at least $67.5 million each year and for players to be guaranteed that their share, in dollars, would never decrease from one year to the next. Those elements would seem to guard against a dip in league revenues, although those have been steadily rising and reached a record $3 billion last season.
The union also put in measures to stop the long-term contracts that are heavily front-loaded, but only for deals struck after a new CBA goes into effect, not for existing deals.
It's not just the core economic issues that are holding things up. The sides have yet to agree on several elements of players' contract rights. The NHL has proposed stricter, more owner-friendly rules, such as a cap on the length of contracts and longer wait times before a player reaches unrestricted free agency.
NOTES -- Penguins center Evgeni Malkin had no points in Metallurg Magnitorgorsk's 2-1 loss against Avangard in the Kontinental Hockey League. ... Former Penguins winger Ryan Malone, an Upper St. Clair native now with Tampa Bay, skated with the Penguins at Southpointe for a second day in a row. ... The players skating locally will not have their regular Thursday and Friday practices because of the holiday.