NHLers fight to keep deals

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

The NHL Players' Association is fighting for one last concession as a new collective bargaining agreement draws closer.

Multiple sources told the Sun yesterday that the players are making another pitch to the NHL, asking it to honour contracts from the 2004-05 season to keep the market from being flooded with free agents.

"My understanding is the players really want their contracts from last year to move forward. They've given in on just about every other issue and this is one they want to fight to the finish," said a league source.

But other sources said there's no way NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will give in to the request as it could cost owners millions in buyouts.

Meanwhile, there was talk a tentative deal could be announced as early as today, but the speculation now is it might be announced on the weekend in the form of a simple press release.

Sources say the two sides won't hold a major press conference until the deal is ratified by the NHLPA and the owners -- something that could take up to 10 days after the tentative deal is announced.

As discussions continued late last night between the NHL and NHLPA, sources were speculating on what the new CBA might contain:

- There's talk there will be a maximum salary on each team which can be no higher than 20% of what is expected to be a $37-million-$39-million (all terms US) cap. For example, if the cap is $37 million, then no player could earn more than $7.4 million in one season. "If that's the case, this system might be completely idiot-proof for general managers," said one league source.

- The sides have discussed the possibility of using baseball-type arbitration. That means the owners submit a salary number and the player goes through a similar process. The arbitrator has to decide on one or the other. There could be major changes to the walkaway rights for the clubs, too.

- Instead of a luxury tax after $30 million, there's now discussion that the top-10 spending teams will pay a percentage of their revenues to the lower-spending teams. That would not be considered a significant form of revenue sharing and might be frowned upon by the union.

- There's talk that rookie deals will be standardized at each position, which would halt the massive amounts being paid to young players in performance bonuses around the league.


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