The Post reports today that NHL-PA meetings are forthcoming in the next week, with some optimism about a new spirit of compromise on the part of owners. "Team officials have privately assured players that the militant stances of Jeremy Jacobs and other hawks are not representative of ownership at large." Meanwhile, despite the news that the NHL has no plans to use replacement players next fall, an apparent victory for moderate owners over hawks at last week's Board of Governors meeting, the PA has applied for union certification in the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia -- if certified, replacement players would not be allowed in those provinces.
Bill Daly responded strongly to the suggestion that players without contracts come June 1 (for draftees ) or July 1 (for RFAs) could be declared free agents via legal action. "The status of all players will be determined in collective bargaining," he told the Ottawa Sun. While that is true (and was echoed by a PA statement), it does not say anything about what a court might decide if faced with a legal challenge in the absence of a CBA. Part of the NHL's problem is wanting to have its cake and eat it too -- it wants existing NHL contracts, like Jagr's and Holik's, to run down by a year for the missed year, but it also wants restrictive rights to extend by the same year. It can attempt to impose its will over the PA in CBA negotiations, but such impositions are not possible in a court of law. What might also sway a court of law is something like this: "one of the reasons [draftees] had not been signed was because teams were told they would be able to sign draft picks at a lower rate if they waited for a new CBA," writes Bruce Garrioch -- a statement that smacks of collusion.
Charlotte spotted Gwinnett a first period goal before roaring back for a 4-1 win that put them ahead 2-1 in their best of five playoff. Three of the four goals were scored by Ranger prospects -- David Liffiton, Dwight Helminen, and Ryan Cuthbert. The Checkers can clinch the series at home this evening. Hartford also plays tonight, with coach Ryan McGill "exasperated by the inconsistency of some top players" (according to the Hartford Courant's Bruce Berlet) and lack of mental preparedness. The winner of tonight's match will take a 3-2 lead with a chance to clinch the series on Saturday.
Kootenay came back from a 4-1 deficit to force overtime, with Nigel Dawes igniting the comeback with a goal, but lost to Kelowna in overtime. That pushes the Ice to the brink, a 3-1 deficit in games that will be difficult to overcome. Prince Albert also mounted a comeback in their game vs. Brandon, scoring four goals for a 4-2 win, tying their series at two games apiece. Rick Kozak had an assist and 33 penalty minutes, racked up in two separate skirmishes. Ottawa swept its series with Peterborough with an OT win -- Jakub Petruzalek did not contribute much to the clincher, going scoreless and -2 as the Petes came back from an early deficit to force OT. Former Ranger assistant coach Dick Todd is Peterborough's head coach. Former Ranger Daniel Lacroix coached Moncton (and Ranger draftee Bruce Graham) last season, but was relieved of his duties after the Wildcats were eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs last week. Lacroix's dismissal was unreported, the news focusing instead on his replacement, former Adams Trophy winner Ted Nolan, who has been blackballed by the NHL since losing his job in Buffalo.