So, can anything be done to fix the situation? Time will tell. But from my experience in following the ordeal and understanding the argument of both sides, here is what I would propose as a deal that is fair to both parties:
A high salary cap
Let's work with something high up, like 60 million dollars. Setting a cap this high allows for big-market teams, such as the New York Rangers or Detroit Red Wings, to spend a larger amount of money if the owner wishes to do so, because larger teams bring in a greater revenue. If owners want to spend that much, let them. Put a leash on them, but not too tight.
A luxury tax system
But that doesn't mean they won't be penalized for it. Realistically, the NHL only needs a cap in the 40 to 45 million range, so let's say every dollar over $42.5 million is taxed 25 percent, and the money goes back into the league with a revenue sharing system, to help out smaller-market teams. At $47.5 million, the tax increases to 50 percent, and again to 75 percent at $52.5 million. Finally, at $55 million, put a 100 percent luxury tax in effect, up until the cap ceiling of $60 million.
Lower free agent age
31 is just too old to expect a player to be tied to one team. Scrap the ridiculous arbitration process that led to inflated salaries and let the players play hardball in contract negotiation once they hit 26 years old. Players will receive fair market value for their skills.
Just as important as a salary cap is a salary floor. For a low-end player making $800,000 per year for 10 years, with little to nothing to do once their hockey career is over, money is important, and those players' salaries shouldn't be sacrified to feed the rich. Set a salary floor at $30 million to force teams to spend enough to be competitive and to give fair wages to players.
This is a deal that I think is pretty fair to both sides. It allows for restrictions that the owners need while providing benefits for both top and fringe players. Will a compromise like this be what makes a deal? Probably not, as the NHL wouldn't accept a cap as high as $60 million, probably just based on principle at this point. But despite the numbers, its possible that something like this could create a deal.