Cap talk a shocker

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

What was the deal with all this "no cap" crap anyway?

After months of taking a hard line stance against a salary cap, a number of shocked NHLers were asking that very question yesterday after learning their own union had included one as part of an offer forwarded to the league Monday night.

But will it be enough?

The league last night tabled a so-called "final" offer of a $42 million-US cap. The players responded with a counter-proposal of a $49 million cap, which immediately was rejected by the NHL.

Should the two sides not be able to find any wiggle room between the two, commissioner Gary Bettman plans on announcing the shutdown of the 2004-05 season at a 1 p.m. press conference.

"Right now, if Bettman cancels the season at one o'clock, there never was a deal to be made," Red Wings forward Kris Draper said last night.

"Bettman needs to move towards the players. First we made the concession of a 24 percent salary roll back and now we have a cap on the table. All we've done is give, give, give.

"It is a little confusing. All along we've said no, no, no to a cap, now we're negotiating on one. Give credit to the players for making (sacrifices) in an attempt to grow the game."

The owner's willingness to drop linkage between a hard cap and league revenues made the concept of a cap a less bitter pill to swallow for the union.

"I'm sure not everybody is happy out there,"Flyers goalie Robert Esche said. "I'm sure there's some players not happy with a hard cap and some owners not happy at not having linkage. But hey, it's a give-and-take world."

SUPPORTING UNION

Despite airing their protests of disenchantment, a number of players continued to back the leadership of the NHLPA.

"Giving up the cap is obviously really frustrating as a player," Oilers forward Ryan Smyth said.

"The union, through this proposal, has caught us by surprise. But the fact they felt it was the thing to do to get it done, then I'm behind them," he added.

Through it all, Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios was fire yet another shot at Bettman.

"We need someone in charge who knows how to market the league, not just a numbers guy," he said.


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