SUN Hockey Pool

NHLPA on shaky ground

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

There isn't even a new collective bargaining agreement in place and already sources say members of the NHLPA's executive committee are getting heat for what a new deal might contain.

A league source told the Sun last night that NHLPA president Trevor Linden and VPs Bill Guerin, Trent Klatt, Daniel Alfredsson, Vincent Damphousse, Arturs Irbe and Bob Boughner are getting calls from concerned players.

While there were reports in Toronto yesterday that the two sides are close to a deal and an announcement is "imminent," sources say talks are progressing, but it's going to be "two weeks to a month" before anything gets done.

'FEEDING FRENZY'

"What you have right now is similar to the feeding frenzy that existed in February when Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were called into New York. There's still a myriad of issues to be dealt with," said the source.

The sides held meetings in small groups yesterday, but will be back for a major negotiating session today with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow in on the talks.

So what's the cause for concern among the players?

Because there is talk circulating through union circles the players are about to accept a deal that will amount to a "total collapse" of the NHLPA's position -- including a salary cap with a link -- when the lockout started.

- Sources say not only have the players left the controversial 24% rollback on the table, they're also talking about a CBA that will include a salary cap with a 54% link to revenues, which will plummet because of the lockout.

- Though salary arbitration would likely remain the same, there's scuttlebutt the five-year deal the players are talking about with the league will also include a 24% rollback on qualifying offers for next season as well.

PLENTY OF WORK TO DO

"I'm hearing the guys on the executive committee are getting a lot of calls from players who want to know what's going on and exactly what's being discussed to get a deal done in these meetings," said a source.

"The talk among the players is a deal is close, but there's plenty of work to be done within the framework these two sides are talking about. I just think a lot of players aren't liking what they're hearing and they want answers."

The reality is once a deal is signed it still has to be approved by the 700-plus members of the union. There's a sense that if the deal isn't good enough, there's a strong possibility it could get voted down.

"There are a lot of players who are feeling a lot of pressure because they're being told that if there's not a deal done by September, then the pie is only going to get smaller for them. The players have the feeling they are on a sinking ship," said the source.


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