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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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At 35, Caps' Justin Williams is still getting it done

At 35, Caps' Justin Williams is still getting it done

It’s been a few weeks since Justin Williams started producing like Justin Williams again. But what he’s managed to do during the Capitals’ hot spell has got to be heartening for the team and its fan base.

Since the Caps’ offensive breakout began 11 games ago in New Jersey, the 35-year-old winger leads the team in goals (8) and ranks second in shots (27).

No one in the league has scored more goals than Williams since New Year’s Eve.

Compare that to the two goals Williams mustered in the first 24 games and, yeah, that slow start is disappearing in the rearview mirror—fast.

RELATED: Andre Burakovsky is on a roll

Over the last 22 games, in fact, Williams has been a point per game player, racking up 14 goals and eight assists in that span after scoring in Thursday’s 7-3 win in St. Louis.

With 16 goals on the season, including four in the last three games, the veteran is on pace for 29 goals, which would be his highest total since he potted 33 as a Hurricane in 2006-07.

After the St. Louis game, Williams said Coach Barry Trotz’s decision to keep together the forward lines in recent weeks has helped boost everyone’s production.

“There’s something to be said for chemistry within lines,” said Williams, who has been skating with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. “Once you’re with someone for a little bit, it’s just human nature that you’re going to learn their ticks and where they’re going to be and their voice, all of the above.”

The Caps are 17-2-1 this season when Williams records a point.    

On Saturday, Williams and his teammates will wrap up the two-game Dad’s Trip with a stop in Dallas, where they’ll face a Stars’ team they have not defeated since 2008.

“As I said earlier, I’m 35-years-old and I still want to impress my dad,” he said of his father, Craig. “I feel his eyes on me. He’s watching. I can see him sitting up there in the press box. It’s fun having him here, that’s for sure. You don’t know how many more we’re going to get, so you just enjoy the time that you have together.”

MORE CAPITALS: Q&A: Why a move at the trade deadline is a bad idea

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First things first: Caps' Andre Burakovsky is getting things started

First things first: Caps' Andre Burakovsky is getting things started

Since getting benched for three games in mid-December, Andre Burakovsky has been one of the Caps’ most productive players.

In 15 games since Coach Barry Trotz sat out the 21-year-old winger, Burakovsky has responded with six goals, including goals in three straight games, and 11 points. In the season’s first 27 games, he amassed two goals and 10 points.

Burakovsky was selected as the first star of Thursday’s 7-3 win in St. Louis, where he also recorded a primary assist on Brett Connolly’s second period strike, which ultimately proved to be the game-winner.

RELATED: Q&A: Why a move at the trade deadline is a bad idea

What’s been most impressive about Burakovsky’s recent offensive outburst, though, hasn’t been number of the goals he’s scored, it’s been the timing of them.

In fact, four of Burakovsky’s six goals since the scratching have been the first goal of the game, including the game winner against the Flyers. The Caps earned a point in each of those four games (2-0-2).

Overall, Washington has scored the first goal of the game in each of the last nine contests.

“It’s hard to score in this league, but it’s a lot easier and it’s a lot less draining when you score first,” Coach Barry Trotz told reporters in St. Louis. “You’re not chasing the game.”

Last season, Burakovsky finished with 17 goals and 38 points in 79 games. This season, he’s on pace for 15 goals and 40 points. If he and his linemates stay hot, however, it reasonable to expect him to do a bit better.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Caps' offense stays red-hot