Leafs' Lupul looks to Europe in case of lockout
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Joffrey Lupul of the Leafs make play in Europe if he is lockout of the NHL. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency/Files)
TORONTO - Recovered from shoulder surgery that ended what had been his best season in the National Hockey League, Joffrey Lupul is peeved that he might not be able to pick up where he left off.
The 28-year-old winger, who had 67 points in 66 games before he was injured last March, has started exploring the option of playing in Europe and is not confident that a new deal can be hammered out between the NHL owners and players before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Saturday.
“Not really,” Lupul said at the Leafs’ annual charity golf tournament at RattleSnake Point Golf Club in Milton. “Seems like this has been their plan all along and they want to get this lockout started, and hopefully that is Step 1 in their negotiations. It is a little frustrating for us.
“We have had the opportunity now to see the (financial) numbers and what each team makes, and we have seen how much revenue the league is creating. At the end of last year, if you would have told us there was going to be a lockout, I don’t think anyone really expected (that).”
If Lupul, who was hurt during a game against the Boston Bruins, has to try to carry over his success overseas, he is willing to do that. During the 2004-05 lockout that killed the entire NHL season, Lupul, with one year with the Anaheim Ducks under his belt, played for the club’s AHL affiliate in Cincinnati.
“I have made some calls and there are definitely some options to go play there,” Lupul said. “Sweden won’t be taking any guys unless it was for the whole year, but other leagues are open to it.
“I want to play in Toronto. But on the other hand, I have missed one year of my (NHL) career to a lockout already, and it would be tough to sit out a second year to a second owner’s lockout.”
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf — recently engaged to actress Elisha Cuthbert and willing to say only that “it’s an exciting time in both of our lives” — hasn’t turned his thoughts to Europe and has no interest, yet, in doing so.
“No, not at all,” Phaneuf said when he was asked whether he has started to make contingency plans. “My focus is to prepare here, and get ready for the start of training camp. There are no other plans, I have not even thought of other options, that’s for sure. I am focused on getting ready to play here and start the year hopefully on time.”
But the strong possibility of a lockout rankles Phaneuf, who arrived back in Toronto on Sunday night.
“Fans don’t want to see a lockout and the players don’t,” Phaneuf said. “The owners and (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) are the only ones who have used the word. It’s a deadline that was put forth by them, and we are still working toward getting something done.”
NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr said early in the summer that the players would be willing to disregard the Sept. 15 if negotiations were progressing, but Bettman soon scuttled that idea, adamant that a lockout would happen if no new CBA was in place.
Somewhat lost in the talk about a lockout is the fact the Leafs didn’t make the improvements in the off-season that general manager Brian Burke had touted. There was no addition of a No. 1 centre or added depth in goaltending. Phaneuf looked past that.
“Both guys we added (forwards James van Riemsdyk and Jay McClement) are really going to help us,” Phaneuf said. “There is a little bit of a different feel coming into the city with the uncertainty of what is going on
“But we are confident in the guys we have that we are starting training camp with. I know (James Reimer) had a tough go with the injuries, but he has proven he can play and be a really good goalie. It’s an exciting time of year.”
IN THE LOOP
That Donald Fehr can be contacted more or less at any time by the NHL players he serves has made the summer of discontent more digestible, Joffrey Lupul figured.
“Whether players are at the meetings, we are still getting e-mail every day and Donald Fehr is available to talk to every day,” Lupul said. “They’ve done a really good job with the (NHLPA) website and have people we can talk to all the time. The whole time, I’ve been kept in the loop.”
With a lockout looming, the NHLPA will have player meetings in New York on Wednesday and Thursday with as many as 300 expected to attend.
It’s early in the process, but today, there appear to be no cracks in the players’ union. Having Fehr in charge has helped foster a feeling of all for one and one for all.