I don't think it's either. I'd bet it's more that the PA just doesn't want to give "five", to borrow the league's analogy. Doesn't matter if the league is willing to consider alternate methods of getting what they want. It still boils down to the league wanting something the PA doesn't feel they should have to give.
so did fehr misrepresent the nhl's position to the players or is the nhl simply backtracking? we'll probably never know.
Also, on things like the contracting rights, there really aren't any alternate possibilities. Either you push back UFA eligibility or you don't. 5 year max contract term or not, 5% salary variance restriction or not.
If we knew better what the league intended to accomplish with the restrictions, then we might be able to consider alternatives. Eliminating back-diving contracts is easy to understand, though it's debatable that it's enough of a problem to warrant taking away a player's right to long-term security and up-front payment. Changes to cap accounting might be an alternate method of preventing cap circumvention without taking much away from players. The rest of the contracting restrictions would seem to be aimed at reducing salary growth, but with player compensation tied directly to revenues that is impossible. It's hard to see any reasoning behind them other than "just because".