TORONTO - The idea that players will pack their bags and head for Europe in the event of a lockout is not so cut and dried.
The respective European leagues haven’t issued notice that they will loosen their import restrictions and, overall, they might not have an appetite to do so should NHL players come knocking.
Some North American-born players crossed the Atlantic Ocean to play when the 2004-05 season was erased from the calendar after the NHL owners locked the players out.
But now, if there is so much as a hint that a lockout could end during the season, European clubs wouldn’t be amenable to the idea that players up and leave when a potential NHL work stoppage ends.
And it’s hard to see players departing for Europe when there is a possibility they could be back in North America before the end of the winter to resume their NHL careers.
“I don’t think it is ever too early to look into it, but the unknown is how each of the leagues is going to react to the potential for a lockout,” player agent Anton Thun said on Thursday. “Some of the leagues might be reluctant.”
Depending on the league, teams are allowed to have as few as two imports or as many as seven. And most of the import spots have been taken for next season.
It’s possible that the Kontinental Hockey League could throw open its doors to North American players, but the Swedish Elite League, for example, probably would not.
The feeling is more than a few European teams were left wanting more when there was an influx of NHL players eight years ago.
Agent Joe Resnick denied on Thursday that his star client, Rick Nash, has agreed to play for Davos in Switzerland if and when players are locked out by the owners.
The Europe issue is getting more traction as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr acknowledged this week that the sides are not on the same page in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The players say they are willing to help the financially stronger clubs help the weaker ones, but the NHL is looking at the players to take on a greater share of those bills.
Bettman and Fehr are not scheduled to be in the same room again until next Wednesday and Thursday in Toronto.
Defenceman Chris Campoli, an unrestricted free agent, spoke on behalf of the NHLPA on Thursday following subcommittee negotiating meetings in Toronto.
Among the subjects covered were hockey issues involving training camp, travel and ice conditions.
“There is so much to cover,” Campoli said. “And they are all important equally. Some things are easier to talk about than others, but that is the fun of negotiating.”
Campoli, who spent last season with the Montreal Canadiens, said he is not concerned about Sept. 15 and the possibility of a lockout, but sounded frustrated with the NHL’s latest stance.
“We’re working to make a deal,” Campoli said. “Frankly, it was a little disappointing to see their response yesterday.
“The industry has grown a billion dollars (since the previous lockout) and basically, they want more money.
“I just think they took such an aggressive stance with their first proposal, and we could have taken an aggressive stance the other way, and we didn’t. We want to fix the systemic issues they have, and I think we are being more than fair in doing that. We’ll see going forward here.
“It would be incredible how much (another work stoppage) would hurt. We don’t want that.”
FOOT-ED THE PAIN
David Clarkson helped the New Jersey Devils get to within two victories of the Stanley Cup despite playing with a fractured foot during the 2012 playoffs.
“I had a bad foot at the beginning of the playoffs and I hurt it again at the end,” Clarkson told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Emotions are high during the playoffs and you can play through it, but then you realize you’re still sore a couple of weeks after it is over.”
No surgery was needed and Clarkson, who had 12 points in 24 playoff games before the Devils were beaten in the final by the Los Angeles Kings, is expected to be ready when training camp opens.
AROUND THE RINKS
Part of the players’ proposal, which Bettman essentially dismissed outright on Wednesday, involved increasing flexibility for general managers. The players put forth that struggling clubs be given an opportunity to receive extra draft picks and in limited cases allow for some teams to go over the salary cap. The idea was floated that teams be able to trade dollars as well …The prospects tournament that is organized by the Detroit Red Wings in Traverse City, Mich., each fall has been scrapped because of lockout fears. The Maple Leafs said earlier this summer that the prospects tournament they run every year is cancelled for 2012 for the same reasons … Forward Alexei Kovalev told TVA Sports he has had some tryout offers from NHL teams and is in Switzerland, training toward a return. Kovalev, who played in the KHL last season, has spent 18 seasons in the NHL with four teams … The Philadelphia Flyers signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a six-year contract extension, worth approximately $4-million a season … Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek is closing in on an agreement with lenders that would let him stay in control of the team, the New York Post reported. The loan is for $160 million.