SUN Hockey Pool

All talk, no action

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

The chances of an NHL season seem to be slim and none ... and slim may have just left town.

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association wrapped up two days of meetings yesterday with a 41/2-hour session at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto and came away with no solution to end the lockout.

Sources told the Sun that NHL teams and players were both advised yesterday that there is little chance of a solution.

With the chances of a season fading and the NHL expected to slap another salary cap on the table with a new proposal next week, NHL VP Bill Daly told reporters the two sides still have a huge gap. No further meeting has been scheduled.

"We've had two good days of communication," said Daly. "But we still have strong philosophical differences."

That means the league and the union still have a great divide over a cap: The owners maintain they need cost certainty to have 30 healthy franchises and the players have restated they won't accept a proposal with a cap.

NO HURRY TO RETURN

While the NHLPA's executive committee was summoned to Toronto to meet with president Trevor Linden last night, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson wasn't among them and isn't in any hurry to return from Sweden. But he's prepared to come back if negotiations heat up and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gets involved in the talks.

"This is a small step in the right direction, but it doesn't mean anything good is going to come of this," said Alfredsson. "Time is running out. There are no real negotiations at the moment, we are just listening to each other to get a feel for the situation."

A report in yesterday's Sun said the two sides may have discussed a six-year deal that included the implementation of a cap if the NHLPA's latest didn't work after three years.

Union officials yesterday denied the report.

That doesn't mean the concept wasn't raised during the meeting when sources say there were several issues talked about "in trying to find a creative way" to get a deal done.

Players seem determined to avoid a salary cap.

"We believe in what we believe in as players and they (the league) believe in what they believe in and it sounds like it's going to be very difficult for something to happen," said Senators centre Bryan Smolinski. "It seems like we've gotten past the point where either side can make a proposal because both sides have stated their positions.

"We know where everybody is at. Now, it's a matter of trying to find common ground."

That's the problem: There doesn't seem to be any.

"(The salary cap is) clearly a central issue," said NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin.


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