NHL labor talks creep along

Hurricanes newcomer awaits breakthrough in labor negotiations

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 3, 2013 

CANES19.SP.101912.CCS

The Canes' Jordan Staal flashes a smile as some of the Carolina Hurricanes and other NHL players practice at Raleigh Center Ice in Raleigh, NC on Oct. 19, 2012. The NHL season is still on hold as owners and players can't agree of how to split revenues.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

When Jordan Staal was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes during June, the center was aware the pending labor dispute in the NHL might delay the start of the 2012-13 season.

And to be locked out by the NHL until January? Not having played a game for the Canes, with his brother, Eric? Staal said he never envisioned that.

“It’s been kind of frustrating a bit for me, coming to a new team and being excited about the season and playing in front of some new fans and being a part of a new organization,” Jordan Staal said this week. “I haven’t quite felt that yet. Hopefully it can happen soon.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would like to have a labor agreement in place and a 48-game regular season start by Jan. 19. But the collective-bargaining negotiations continue ever so slowly, as the NHL and NHL Players Association held small-group sessions Thursday in New York, and there are no guarantees the season will be played.

Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh was involved in the negotiations for the second straight day. But NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr sat out the afternoon sessions, with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr heading up the union’s contingent.

The two sides met until almost 1 a.m. Thursday. That came after the NHLPA’s 11:59 p.m. deadline for using a “disclaimer of interest,” in which the union effectively would be dissolved and the players able to file antitrust litigation against the league.

The players voted overwhelmingly to authorize the union’s executive board to file a disclaimer, as the NBA players did during their labor battle before the 2011-12 season. Donald Fehr elected not to use the disclaimer, but several media outlets reported Thursday the players could vote soon to issue a new authorization.

The union did make one legal move Thursday, requesting a U.S. District Court in New York to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed by the league last month. The NHL in the suit asked that court declare the lockout legal.

The league and union, who have traded CBA proposals since last week, apparently still are at odds on such key issues as the salary cap for the 2013-14 season and the maximum length of contracts.

The league wants a $60 million cap for next season; the union is requesting a $65 million cap. The league has proposed a six-year length for new contracts (seven for re-signing a player); the union is seeking an eight-year maximum.

The league reportedly has offered to allow each team two compliance buyout contracts that will not count toward the salary cap.

Bettman, talking to reporters early Thursday, said the continuing negotiations left him “hopeful” an agreement can be found on a CBA.

Jordan Staal also is hopeful. He came to Carolina in the blockbuster trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, signing a 10-year extension and hoping to jump into the lineup with Eric and help the Canes reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009.

“This has been a new one for me,” Jordan Staal said of the lockout. “It’s frustrating, but you try to keep the body in the best shape you can and hope for the best.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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