Canes know NHL season is on thin ice

calexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 5, 2012 

— They took to the ice Tuesday in their Carolina Hurricanes sweaters, skating, stickhandling, shooting the puck.

For the Canes, it was the start of informal workouts at Raleigh Center Ice, and it was well-attended. Eric Staal, the captain, was there. So were brothers Jordan and Jared Staal.

Goaltenders Cam Ward and Justin Peters were in net. Defensemen Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, Jay Harrison, Joe Corvo and Justin Faulk skated, as did forwards Chad LaRose, Jiri Tlusty, Pat Dwyer, Anthony Stewart, Andreas Nodl and Zac Dalpe.

"For the players, not making the playoffs, it’s a long summer," Gleason said after a 50-minute skate. "We feel like we’ve got the right fit now and we’re excited about getting going."

If any team in the NHL wants the season to get going, on schedule, it’s the Hurricanes. After missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for a third straight year, the Canes added Jordan Staal in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, signed free agent forward Alexander Semin and brought back Corvo.

They’re excited about the potential of what would be Kirk Muller’s first full season as coach – that is, if there is a season.

The collective bargaining talks between the league and the NHL Players Association are now in a "recess." They broke off Friday and did not resume Tuesday, and If there is no new CBA in place by Sept. 15, commissioner Gary Bettman says the players will be locked out.

Gleason didn’t sound very optimistic Tuesday about avoiding a lockout, saying, "I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better."

Things went from bad to worse to worst case in 2004, when extended haggling over the CBA eventually led to the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season. Corvo, then playing for the Los Angeles Kings, spent part of that season with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

"I would say coming into the summer, it certainly doesn’t have the same feel it did last time," Corvo said. "Last time it seemed like it was for certain we’d be locked out. Guys were already making plans, mid-summer, to go to Europe and signing contracts with European teams. I don’t hear too much of that going on."

For now, all Corvo and the others can do is prepare for the season, hoping for the best while also bracing for the worst.

"I don’t worry about it. It’s all out of my control," Corvo said. "Hopefully it will work out. If it doesn’t, I’ll just be ready when it does."

In 2005, the players finally accepted a CBA with a hard salary cap that resulted in a severe rollback in their salaries. But the league has steadily grown and was a $3.3 billion enterprise last season, leading Harrison to say a major overhaul of the NHL’s financial model wasn’t needed this time.

The NHL Players Association, led by executive director Donald Fehr, has proposed smaller salary increases the next three years and more substantial revenue-sharing for the teams that are financially weak. The owners want a bigger slice of hockey-related revenue each year, seeking to reduce the players’ share by 11.5 percent in the first year, then 8.5 percent and 5.5 percent.

The two sides differ on the definition of hockey-related revenue – another key point of contention in the CBA talks.

"We’re don’t necessarily agree on where all the tweaks need to be, but we both agree that some tweaks here and there will help the league and create a better business for everyone," Harrison said. "What’s been overshadowed some is that the (CBA) meetings have been productive. We don’t have (agreement) on the core economic issues, but once that’s done I think everything will fall into place really quickly.’

But the two sides need to be talking, face to face. No one was talking Tuesday.

"As players, we’re ready to talk any time and more than willing to negotiate," Harrison said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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