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Will NHL players accept owners' offer?

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Will NHL players accept owners' offer?

Let’s start with the truth.

NHL players will not come running back from the four corners of the hockey world to accept the 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue that was proposed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday in Toronto.

That said, there is a much better chance today of the NHL salvaging a season than at any point in the past four months. Bettman’s 50-50 split across the board is far better than the 47 percent proposed by the owners on Sept. 12.

But it’s still a far cry from the 57 percent taken in by the players under the expired CBA and would require players to have significant money placed in escrow accounts.

Bettman said his proposal would not require immediate salary rollbacks. While that may be true, it likely would require players to place at least 6.5 percent of their salaries in escrow accounts, much like they have in previous years.

That is something many players, including Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, have said they would not accept. Ovechkin has nine years and $88 million remaining on his contract with the Caps and is reportedly making $6 million playing in Russia this season.

Ovechkin has repeatedly stated he would consider staying in the KHL the entire season if it meant accepting a significant paycut to play in the NHL. Other players, including former Caps defenseman Sergei Gonchar, have echoed those sentiments.

So, while Tuesday’s proposal by the owners was a significant one, it only serves as a kickstart to more meaningful negotiations that are sure to heat up in the next eight to nine days.

It is important to emphasize that while Bettman called Tuesday’s proposal the NHL’s “best offer,” he did not call it the league’s “final offer.” It’s also worth noting that Don Fehr called the proposal “an excellent starting point” that he hopes will lead to more significant negotiations.

Here are a few more things to know about the league’s proposal: it is for at least six years; it carries a five-year maximum length on player contracts; it moves the age for unrestricted free agency from seven years of NHL service or 27 years of age to eight years of service or 28 years of age; and it keeps entry-level contracts at three years.

The players are likely to agree on all of those points. But their next move might be going with a less dramatic decline in revenue sharing – say beginning at 54 percent and ending at a 50-50 split in Year 5 or 6.

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

There was a lot of excitement to start the season for the Caps. First, there was the home-opener and the banner raising against the Boston Bruins. Then there was a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins. After that, it was a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of that was followed up with a trip to Newark.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

With all due respect to New Jersey, given the slate the Caps faced to start the season, it was no real surprise to see the team struggle to get up for Thursday’s game against the Devils, a game in which the Caps were blown out 6-0. Of all the games Washington faced to start the season, the trip to New Jersey was definitely the least exciting.

But not every game is going to be a big rivalry matchup or a playoff rematch. With every team gunning for the Caps, they better make sure they can get themselves ready for the grind of an 82-game season that won’t always feature a big-time matchup.

A trip to Newark may not be flashy or exciting, but it still counts as two points.

The Caps dropped the game in New Jersey and lost a tight contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where do they stand now after two straight losses?

FIND OUT HERE IN THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

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