SUN Hockey Pool

It's about the details

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

The finish line is still a few days away.

While an erroneous report Thursday declared an agreement in principle had been reached, sources say representatives of the NHL and the Players Association were huddled again yesterday, aiming to put the finishing touches on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The two sides are close to ending the NHL's 10-month labour war and would like to have a deal done tomorrow. But sources say they spent yesterday ironing out the details of several issues which have yet to be worked out.

Ideally, the NHL would like to have something in place that can be presented to the league's executive committee at a meeting Monday in New York and to the board of governors later in the week.

An announcement will come in the form of a simple press release with a statement from representatives of the NHL and the NHLPA. A more formal press conference will take place once the deal has been ratified.

NHL VP Bill Daly, along with NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow and senior director Ted Saskin, are trying to get through some smaller issues while lawyers deal with the exact language of the agreement.

Here's what was discussed yesterday:

- What is the status of players drafted in 2003, who were supposed to be signed by June 1? Is there going to be a deadline to get them signed? How much is the maximum they can make in the new CBA or do they fall under the guidelines of the old CBA?

- What about players who were supposed to receive qualifying offers by July 1 this year? What's their status for free agency? IMG has led a bid to get these players declared unrestricted free agents, but the league has contended this will be an issue for collective bargaining.

"There's still some work left to do and these issues are on the table and have to be agreed upon before anything can be signed and announced," said a league source.

Once an announcement is made, there will be a 10-day moratorium on player movement while the league spends time educating owners, presidents and GMs of all 30 teams about how the agreement works.

At the same time, the NHLPA will call a general meeting for all 700 members in Toronto to explain the CBA. Sources say a secret electronic vote on the union's website will then be held to ratify the deal.

The union also has to gather all of the league's certified agents to explain the mechanics of the CBA.

SIDNEY LIKES NHL: Sidney Crosby said yesterday he wants to play in the NHL if there's a season this fall. While his agent, Pat Brisson of IMG, is in talks with Swiss club Lugano, the 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., said playing in Europe is only an option if the NHL's labour situation isn't cleared up. "Obviously I'm going to consider other places, but if there's an NHL (season) that's where I want be," Crosby said in an interview with CBC News. "Right now, I want to make sure that I have somewhere to go if there is no NHL season, but we're thinking best-case scenario that there's going to be one, so that's what I'm worried about."

RON LOOKING UP: The NHL will thrive when it returns after losing a season to a labour dispute, Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean said yesterday at the Brad Richards Celebrity Golf Classic in P.E.I. "I know the game is about to flourish," he said. "You look at the London Knights with four Americans on their team, (they) won the Memorial Cup. The game is ready to take off in the (U.S.) despite all that doom and gloom. It's ready to just soar."

SLAP SHOTS: Pat Burns will not coach the New Jersey Devils next season after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time in a little more than a year. Burns is resting at his home in New Hampshire after undergoing surgery last week, Devils president Lou Lamoriello said, adding the three-time NHL coach of the year will start chemotherapy soon, Lamoriello said ... Dave Lewis will not return as the Red Wings' coach, paving the way for former Anaheim coach Mike Babcock to come to Detroit.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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