The NHL, hoping to jump-start negotiations and end the lockout, softened some of its demands in a "new, comprehensive proposal" tendered to the players late Thursday.
The league informed the union that a deal must be agreed upon by Jan. 11 in order to begin training camps the following day and start a 48-game season Jan. 19, an NHL source said.
"We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."
The league and union are expected to talk Saturday and potentially meet Sunday.
The league e-mailed all 30 teams late Thursday with the bullet points, including putting the $300 million "Make Whole" back on the table. That's the money paid back to players in the early years of a new collective bargaining agreement that splits revenues at 50-50.
The NHL made a 10-year proposal with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years. It also proposed six-year maximum contract lengths (up from five in the NHL's last proposal) with teams having the ability to re-sign their own players to seven-year deals. In order to curb the backsliding contracts meant to circumvent the salary cap (i.e. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and dozens of others), year-to-year salary variances will be limited up or down to no more than 10 percent the value of the first year of the contract (up from 5 percent).
The league would grandfather in the previous $70.2 million salary cap ceiling meant for 2012-13 under its proposal, but teams must comply with a $60 million upper limit by 2013-14. The union had been seeking compliance buyouts to aid that process. In the league's latest proposal, teams would be allowed one, but it would count against the player share of revenues.
Revenue sharing would increase from $150 million to $200 million.
Games have been canceled through Jan. 14. The next cancellation would terminate the season.
NHL Players' Association Executive Director Don Fehr, who had the proposal e-mailed directly to him from Commissioner Gary Bettman, spent Friday reviewing the extensive proposal. He communicated with the 700-plus player membership, including during an afternoon conference call with his negotiating committee and executive board.
The NHLPA reportedly is working on a counterproposal.
Other than a failed attempt with federal mediators, the NHL and NHLPA haven't formally held a bargaining session since Dec. 6.
Other items, some of which have been reported previously, in the NHL's proposal as obtained by ESPN.com include:
• Changing the NHL draft lottery to allow all nonplayoff teams, not just the five worst teams, the chance to win the No. 1 overall pick.
• Beginning free agency following an interview window.
• The ability to retain or allocate salary and salary-cap charges in player trades (not permitted before).
• Playoff pool increased from $6 million to $13 million, with regular increases over course of CBA.
• Annual holiday break increased to Dec. 24-26, adding one day.
• Revamping health and safety measures and improvements to the performance-enhancing substance program.