SUN Hockey Pool

Talks 'closest they've been'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

The two sides in the NHL's labour dispute are moving closer to a deal.

A well-placed league source told the Sun yesterday that talks between the NHL and NHLPA have progressed to the point they're "closest they've ever been," but cautioned there's plenty of work to do.

Trying to get a collective bargaining agreement in place before there's no chance to save revenues next season, the two sides reconvened in Chicago yesterday to continue to work to get a deal in place.

Sources say for the first time in these discussions, the two sides are talking about "the same concepts" for a CBA, which means all they have to do is "work out the numbers" to get an agreement in place.

FLOATING CAP

The belief is the NHL and union will settle on a floating cap based on league revenues. Union boss Bob Goodenow sent a message to the players on their website Monday indicating the league will not move off its stance of a 54% link to revenues.

Not only did Goodenow tell the players he didn't believe this kind of concept was going to work, he told the players to contact him personally if they wanted more information. But there is talk NHLPA president Trevor Linden and past president Mike Gartner are playing more active roles in the negotiations.

There's also a rumour circulating that Red Wings winger Brendan Shanahan, who formed a committee to make improvments to the game, has also been working behind the scenes to play a central role in getting the two sides to go in the same direction.

"There are a lot of players who don't want to see this stretch into next year and they don't see any point in having it go into next year. They've fought the good fight, but the battle has been lost," said a league source.

"Now, they're of the opinion that the union should just try to get the best deal possible and move on with this. I would say right now the union is trying to find a way to say they saved face in this negotiation."

UFAS AT AGE OF 28?

One area where the players might try to gain ground is in unrestricted free agency. There's talk the two sides were discussing moving the age of UFAs to 30 next season and then scaling it back to 28 over the course of four years.

"The players have to look like they got something for missing the year," added the source.


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