Will there be an NHL deal soon? Maybe? Likely? Yes? But Daniel Alfredsson is cautious when commenting on the fragile labour negotiations.
He's optimistic that talks are headed in the right direction for the the NHL's return next season.
The Senators captain, a VP on the NHL Players' Association bargaining committee, won't use the word "confident," but believes training camps could open on time in September.
Speaking to the Sun before taking part in Mike Fisher's charity golf tournament at Kanata Lakes yesterday, Alfredsson admitted the two sides have found common ground on some issues.
"I would say that if talks keep going in the same direction that they've been going, then we're going to have hockey back next season," he said. "The meetings have been good and they've been positive, but there's still a lot of work to be done here.
"I wouldn't use the word confident because I just don't think that's the right way to put it. I'm going to be very careful here. We've been confident before there's going to be a deal and nothing has been done."
Sources say the two sides would like to have a deal in place by July 1 so teams will have time to sell season tickets, sponsorship agreements, sign free agents and try to get fans excited about having hockey back again.
Talks between the NHL and the NHLPA officials continued yesterday. The belief is the players have agreed to accept a concept of a salary cap in the $36-$39-million (all figures US) range with a floor of $22 million.
Sources say the players are also going to be asked to accept a 24% rollback on existing contracts. The two sides still have to work out the issues of salary arbitration, free agency and whether the contracts that passed during the 2004-05 season are going to be honoured. Any of those could be deal breakers.
Once a deal is done, it will require ratification from the 700-plus players in the union and a cap might be hard sell to older players.
Alfredsson, who returned to Ottawa after playing for Sweden in the world championships, has been actively involved in discussions.
"Once they went to the smaller groups ... not so much, but it's been keeping me busy," said Alfredsson. "I've spent a lot of time on the phone speaking with people. I don't want to put a date (on when a deal might get done). Hopefully, this is all going to be something positive in the end. I just don't want to say we're close because until it's done, we're not done. You might say that you are confident and then the whole deal falls apart. Hopefully, the work that is being done now will lead to a deal."