CBA talks on tap for GMs

LANCE HORNBY and AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Today, the general managers will get an early start with a 7:30 a.m. meeting to discuss collective bargaining issues. Even though the GMs are not directly involved in the negotiations, they are the ones who will be involved in the implementation of the new CBA when it finally comes about. Furthermore, the GMs will discuss their strategy if the league decides to proceed with its implied threat of using replacement players. The GMs will have the task of finding those players and negotiating their services.

There is some thought among the GMs of revamping the NHL's playoff system. Currently the top eight in each conference make it, with the three division leaders, seeded 1 to 3.

Some clubs, particularly those on the post-season fringe the past few years, want to examine limiting guaranteed berths to the top six in each conference, while four wild-card spots would go to teams at large.

Another idea making the rounds in Detroit is to expand the playoff pool from 16 to 20, admitting the top 12, then letting the next eight play a best-of-three series within 48 hours of the completion of the regular season.

Some of the top clubs also want a format change, specifically with seeding the surviving eight teams in the first round. They want it based on points, a system that would have given the Maple Leafs home-ice advantage against the Flyers last year, based on their 103 points to Philly's 102. The Flyers, the Atlantic Division champions, had home ice.

CUTTING EDGE

Though it's more a collective bargaining issue than a rules question, the oft-mentioned idea of reducing the 23-man roster is intriguing.

Some GMs contend that dropping it to 21 won't mean much of a savings for the owners, given that cutting one or two fringe players might not even add up to $1 million US off the payroll. On the other hand, if the elimination of two players is calculated using last year's NHL average salary of $1.8 million, then it becomes a significant savings.

BRIEFLY

If the shootout rule comes in, it's expected players can opt not to wear helmets. Facial close-ups will make far better television. "Guys can fix their hair the way they want," one player joked yesterday ...Goaltender Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars has been added to Team Canada's roster's for the world championships. It's expected he'll battle Roberto Luongo to be Martin Brodeur's back-up.


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