Weekend off for negotiators

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

The National Hockey League and its Players' Association will put on their thinking caps and salary caps again next week after four days of productive talks ended yesterday in New York.

"We spent the last four days in small group meetings continuing to review and negotiate various systemic and economic issues," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said in a statement. "The two sides will resume small group discussions on Monday in Toronto."

There were reports at mid-week that a cap system based on team-by-team revenue had been agreed upon, but The Toronto Sun reported yesterday that commissioner Gary Bettman told one team general managers that no such cap existed, at least not yet. Other issues still on the table include free agency, salary arbitration, drug testing, Olympic participation and proposed rule changes.

NET VALUE

Would enlarged NHL nets create a countrywide junk pile of obsolete steel and twine?

Hockey Canada wonders about the consequences of the NHL replacing thousands of tried and true four-foot by six-foot frames to emulate the pros. A 13% increase in shooting area and curved posts are among the new models being considered.

"The concern would be the eventual costs to young kids, because any kind of new net is expensive," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said. "Some nets are owned by a municipality and not in our control. But we haven't had a lot of discussion about it. We'd rather wait and see if the reduction in goaltending equipment makes any difference (in efforts to boost scoring)."

PENGUINS PURCHASE

A group of West Coast investors led by a friend of Mario Lemieux is set to become the majority owner of the Penguins, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday.

William (Boots) Del Biaggio, a San Jose businessman and friend of the Pittsburgh player-owner, and other unidentified investors have negotiated a letter of intent, the newspaper said. The report said Lemieux would continue his senior role with the team, which would not be moved from the city.

MARLIES PROGRESS

The Toronto Marlies could be announcing their new coach next week. Greg Gilbert and Peter DeBoer remain on the American Hockey League club's short list.

SWEDES CLEARED

Three Swedish NHL players accused of rape were cleared yesterday by a prosecutor who said there was no evidence they forced the woman to have sex.

The 22-year-old woman had said she was raped Feb. 9 in a hotel room by Kristian Huselius of the Florida Panthers, Andreas Lilja of the Nashville Predators and Henrik Tallinder of the Buffalo Sabres. The woman also said she may have been drugged by the players, but tests proved she wasn't.


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