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Players want fair deal: Oilers' Dubnyk

Oilers players rep Devan Dubnyk says both sides are being civil during the CBA negoations. (QMI...

Oilers players rep Devan Dubnyk says both sides are being civil during the CBA negoations. (QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 PM ET

EDMONTON - Had labour negotiations cut short any of the last four or five NHL seasons, or even wiped them out altogether, the NHL and NHLPA would have been doing Edmonton fans a favour.

For the most part during those famine years, an Oilers season was 82 games worth of "move along folks, nothing to see here."

Draft picks notwithstanding, it was hockey better left unplayed.

This year, with Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz joining an already dynamic cast of high-end talent — all of it older and stronger, and presumably better than last season — 2012-13 should be compelling from start to finish.

It would be a shame if it never happens, if the season is derailed just as the Oilers are poised to challenge for a playoff spot.

"There's a ton of excitement around this team and there's good reason for it," said Oilers netminder and player rep Devan Dubnyk, who sits in on weekly conference calls with the union.

"That makes it even more nerve-wracking to go through this (CBA) stuff.

"The good thing is that both sides agree that having a lockout would be bad for everybody involved."

The worrisome part is that the NHL's opening play in the negotiations wasn't so much an offer as a shot across the union's bow.

The proposal included cutting the players share of league revenue from 57% to 43%, putting a five-year limit on contracts, eliminating salary arbitration and making players wait 10 years, instead of seven, before they're eligible for unrestricted free agency.

It seems like an enormous gulf, terms the NHLPA will never agree to, but Dubnyk says there is no cause for alarm.

If the league is still locked into that hardline position in mid September there's trouble, but an opening offer, he says, is never worth getting riled up over.

"We're certainly taking it seriously and going over it, but anybody who looks at it, players or the public, it's pretty easy to see that it's pretty extreme," said Dubnyk.

"That's why we requested the financial information, to see where and why they came up with the numbers they did.

"It's certainly not what we're going to be looking for. Last time. we gave up a lot of concessions so we didn't lose a season, so we're just looking for a fair deal right now and I don't think anybody watching, players or fans, could possibly say that first proposal is anything close to fair.

"The good news is it seems that both sides are being civil.

"There is little hostility in there. Both sides agree that we need to get something done and that being hostile in negotiations is never going to speed up the process."

He's confident they'll get this done in time to go ahead with a full season, simply because both sides want it badly.

"That's one thing that is always brought up during any conference call with the players Ñ we don't want (a work stoppage) to happen.

"We want to play more than anybody.

"We're not looking to get any extra, we just want a fair deal so we can play."

He says the players are fine with the status quo.

Tack another three years onto the current agreement and they'd be happy.

"I don't want to see a lot change; I think the game is going in a great direction. Revenues are going up, the fans are growing. I don't want to see too much change.

"The biggest thing for us as players is we just want a fair deal.

"Revenues have gone through the roof since the lockout.

"That's extremely exciting; that means the game is growing.

"It just doesn't seem to make sense, with revenues going through the roof, that there would be significant cutbacks for us."

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@Sun_Tychkowski

 


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