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NHL presents players its final offer

February 15, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL made its final offer just hours before it was set to cancel the season.

The league bumped its salary-cap proposal from $40 million to $42.5 million Tuesday and gave the players' association until 11 a.m. Wednesday to accept. If they reject it, the season would be canceled two hours later, according to a letter sent by commissioner Gary Bettman to players' association executive director Bob Goodenow.

"This offer is not an invitation to begin negotiations - its too late for that," Bettman said in the letter obtained by The Associated Press. "This is our last effort to make a deal that's fair to the players and one that the clubs (hopefully) can afford. We have no more flexibility and there is no time for further negotiation."

In the final bargaining session between NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly and players' association senior director Ted Saskin, the league dropped its longstanding demand for a link between revenues and player costs.

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In return, the union came off its reluctance to a salary cap - and proposed one.

The cap the players offered was a soft cap of $52 million, a source close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Teams would be allowed to spend up to 10 percent above that three times in six years, but would be subject to an escalating luxury tax on anything above $40 million.

Bettman scheduled a news conference on Monday with the intention of announcing that there wouldn't be any hockey until at least next fall.

"Hopefully, the press conference will not be necessary," Bettman said in the letter.

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