Lockout looms over NHL draft

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET

 RALEIGH, N.C. (CP) -- The National Hockey League draft ended quietly Sunday and, with a labour war looming, it's anyone's guess when the 30 clubs will be seen again.

 The league and the NHL Players' Association must agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by Sept. 15 to avoid a lockout that could extend into next season.

 And if it is not resolved by next June, it will postpone the 2005 draft scheduled for the Corel Centre in Ottawa, where Cole Harbour, N.S., phenom Sydney Crosby is expected to be the first overall pick.

 But until those scenarios occur, teams are conducting their business as usual and will approach the signing of these 291 players selected in the same manner.

 "I'm not even worrying about that," said Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis. "We're operating under a system that is in place until Sept. 15 and it is business as usual from our standpoint."

 Most of the action happened Saturday during the first three rounds of the draft.

 Alexander Ovechkin, selected first overall by the Washington Capitals, and Yevgeny Malkin, taken second by the Pittsburgh Penguins, marked the first time Russian players went 1-2 in the draft.

 It was notable that only 18 Russian players were chosen overall -- the least since the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Last year, 29 Russians were drafted.

 The NHL must also renew its collective transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation, but the Russian federation is campaigning to have its clubs negotiate transfer fees directly with NHL teams, which would push up costs.

 "I'm sure that eventually things will get ironed out," said Penguins GM Craig Patrick, who said he didn't know if he will be able to sign Malkin for next season.

 If there is a lockout, both Ovechkin and Malkin are expected to play in Russia next season.

 Many scouts say the two Russians are the only players from this draft able to step directly into the NHL if there are games next season. Therefore, they are the only ones whose teams will likely feel pressure to sign them right away.

 Teams have two years to sign this year's picks before they have the right to re-enter the draft.

 A new CBA is expected to include new limits on salary levels for rookies.

 Mostly, the lockout threat affects players drafted in 2003, some of whom have yet to sign with the NHL clubs, Montreal GM Bob Gainey said.

 "We have two or three we'll try to sign this summer," he said.

 Rounds four through nine were held Sunday and took just over three hours to complete. Then team managers, coaches and scouts cleared out quickly and headed home.

 It was a quiet weekend save for the Senators, who traded centre Radek Bonk to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and then saw Bonk dealt to the Canadiens along with goalie Cristobal Huet for back-up goaltender Mathieu Garon and a third-round pick.

 On Sunday, Ottawa moved goalie Patrick Lalime to the St. Louis Blues for a conditional draft pick in 2005.

 There weren't many surprises among the top players drafted.

 After the two Russians, defenceman Cam Barker of the Medicine Hat Tigers was taken third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks and winger Andrew Ladd of the Calgary Hitmen went fourth to the host Carolina Hurricanes, drawing a big ovation from a crowd of more than 15,000.

 While Canadians dominated the first round last year, this time only three went in the first 13 picks. Winger Alexandre Picard was taken eighth by Columbus.

 Still, the 30 teams selected 125 Canadian players which was only four fewer than last year.

 Next was the United States with 64 players drafted, their best showing since 1991 when 68 were taken.

 There were 21 from the Czech Republic, 19 from Sweden, 18 Russians, 14 Finns, 10 Slovaks, four each from Belarus and Switzerland and 12 from other countries.

 Of note was the Los Angeles Kings' selection of Japanese national team goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji in the eighth round, 238th overall.

 The final selection at 291st was Detroit centre John Carter, who was taken by the Philadelphia Flyers.

 The most popular leagues players were drafted from were the Western Hockey League with 44, the Ontario Hockey League with 42 and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 27.

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