SUN Hockey Pool

Crosby: I will be in NHL

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Sidney Crosby is willing to play for less money in the National Hockey League than he could make overseas, even if it's for approximately a third of the salary.

Furthermore, Crosby, the best NHL prospect to come along since Mario Lemieux, is adamant he will be in the NHL for 2005-06, not in Switzerland or any other European league.

"No," Crosby said yesterday when he was asked if playing for a third of the money in the NHL that he could make with Lugano in Switzerland was a problem.

"I will be in the NHL (next season)."

Crosby's agent with IMG, Pat Brisson, was negotiating with Lugano for a deal for his client that possibly could have been worth $10 million US over three years. When the NHL and NHL Players' Association announce they have agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement, it is expected picks in the 2005 draft won't be able to earn much more than $850,000 US in base salary. Crosby will be the first pick overall in the draft, which could take place July 30 or Aug. 6, likely in Ottawa.

Though the Swiss contract sounds juicy, Crosby said Brisson was doing his due diligence only to protect the 17-year-old phenom for next season if the NHL was not in play.

"I wanted to make sure I had somewhere to play," Crosby said. "I had to cover myself. I don't want to be (in a situation) where it's the middle of August if there is no NHL and I am panicking."

Crosby is not the only prospect for whom money does not appear to be an overriding issue. Michael Richards, a first-round pick in 2003 by the Philadelphia Flyers, won't get the $1.24 million a year for three years he could have had if he had signed prior to the lockout. There is speculation the 2003 picks will be able to sign for $942,400 (of which 30% could be bonus money), or $1.24 million with a 24% rollback that likely will be part of the new CBA for all players.

It is thought clubs will have a window of one week to sign their 2003 picks, but Flyers general manager Bob Clarke has said he wants to get Richards and fellow 2003 first-rounder Jeff Carter signed immediately after the CBA is reached.

"I'm not sure how (the salary structure) is going to hit but that's not a bad thing," Richards said. "You play hockey for hockey, not for the bonuses or for the salary. Even a limited bonus would not be a bad living."

Crosby, Richards and Carter and the rest of the 2005 Canadian junior men's team have been in Toronto for the past couple of days for one final get-together before their hockey careers shoot off in different directions. Among other events, they have received gold rings commemorating their world junior championship title last winter in Grand Forks, N.D. and last night attended the Canadian Hockey Foundation Gala.

"It's a close group," Carter said. "We worked hard for what we accomplished and to come back and see all the guys again and be honoured with rings is a great feeling."


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