NHL VP rips players union

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

NHL VP Bill Daly lashed out at the NHLPA Players' Association over a Sun report yesterday, saying that a new collective bargaining agreement -- not the courts -- will determine the status of players.

Asked to react to the Sun story that a number of agents are prepared to go to court to get their clients declared unrestricted free agents if there's no CBA in place by July 1, Daly told the Sun their status remains undecided.

And he indicated any agent who believes players taken in the 2003 draft that have not signed by June 1 will go back in the draft -- or NHLers who need qualifying offers by July 1 will become free agents -- is "misinformed."

"The status of all players, vis-a-vis NHL club rights, will be determined in collective bargaining," Daly wrote in an e-mail to the Sun. "Those who are suggesting otherwise -- namely, that certain players have now, or will have in the future a particular status -- are misinformed."

Later, in an interview with Sportsnet, Daly was even more upset: "It's a very uninformed and misguided premise which totally ignores and misconstrues the nature, purpose and laws of collective bargaining and the status of the multi-employer bargaining unit in collective bargaining."

Then, Daly added: "It's union-directed rhetoric which is so baseless it's almost laughable."

Still, sources say this is a hot-button issue because the NHL isn't sure where it would stand legally if there's no CBA in place and the agents decide to go to court to get their clients declared unrestricted free agents.

If the agents were successful in court, the Senators' Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Jason Spezza, along with Boston's Joe Thornton, Rick Nash of Columbus and Atlanta's Dany Heatley would be among a group of high-profile unrestricted free agents.

On the draft front, the most nervous GM is the Flyers' Bob Clarke, who would lose the rights to OHL superstars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter if the agents succeeded.

Ironically, one of the main reasons the pair had not been signed was because teams were told that they would be able to sign draft picks at a lower rate if they waited for a new CBA.

The NHLPA, meanwhile, is keeping its nose out of the argument over what happens to those affected if the lockout drags on.

"Player status issues, such as retention rights and free agency, are all subjects to be collectively bargained," union spokesman Jon Weatherdon said in a statement.


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