Draft still up in air

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:15 PM ET

Whether Sidney Crosby gets his official introduction to the NHL at the Corel Centre still remains a huge question mark. With an eye toward saving the June 25 entry draft in Ottawa, the NHL and the Players' Association went back to the bargaining table yesterday at a Toronto airport hotel -- their first meeting since Feb. 19.

While the two sides in the league's labour dispute agreed to meet again next week to try to settle their collective bargaining deadlock, sources say nothing was accomplished during yesterday's 90-minute session.

"No progress was made towards a new collective bargaining agreement," said NHL VP Bill Daly in a short statement last night.

That means the Senators must wait a little longer to see what happens with the draft. It's believed the NHL has told club officials to stay patient. No answer is coming soon.

Though the Senators have already been told they'll receive the 2008 draft if this year's version is cancelled, the selection of Crosby has made this year's event much anticipated. But judging by the atmosphere surrounding these talks, there isn't much hope for a deal with commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Bob Goodenow back in the mix.

"I've been looking at the calendar since Sept. 15,'' Goodenow told The Canadian Press. ''We made major steps and major proposals back in December to try to avoid this problem and try to avoid the cancellation. Where we are today is a continuance of an unfortunate situation that the owners have put in place with their lockout and we ... remain committed to try and find a fair negotiated solution to it. And I would like to think that the other side is as well."

Sources say the NHL is prepared to sign a CBA without a link to revenues if the union agrees to get a deal in place by June 1. If there's nothing by then, it's believed the league has warned linkage will be back on the table for good.

During last week's NHL board of governors meetings, league teams were asked to consider how they would market each of five different scenarios spelled out by Bettman and Daly. They are expected to present their ideas by March 31.

REPLACEMENTS ONE OPTION

While there were reports the NHL was looking at a 60-game schedule with replacement players, sources say those are false. In fact, all possibilities include an 82-game regular schedule followed by playoffs. The league is considering all of the following scenarios:

- Getting a deal with the players;

- Using replacement players;

- Going with replacements and union members expected to cross the line if the doors are opened;

- A shortened schedule once a new CBA is in place;

- No hockey next season.

"The players have to realize that if they aren't motivated to get this deal done quickly, then the revenue streams are only going to get worse," said a league source.

"They're not going to improve with what's happening now."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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