Player rep Adams sees 3 tiers in NHL labor conflict

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The way Penguins forward Craig Adams sees it, there are three levels of issues that the NHL and the NHL Players' Association must work through before a new collective bargaining agreement can be hammered out and the owners end the ongoing lockout.

The key and well-chronicled sticking point is the tug-of-war over league revenues.

A couple of rungs below that, Adams said, "there's a lot of stuff that I guess you could call less important, but it still affects the players. Whether it's drug-testing, issues like travel, scheduling, safety -- there's a million different things that we've worked on. We've definitely come to an agreement on some of those things."

Then there is a middle tier of issues.

Adams, the Penguins' union representative, said those are things that "people tend to brush aside, but it's very, very important, and that's the player contracting issues: the structure of entry-level contracts, free-agency, arbitration, maximum length of deals, things like that. That's probably not as important as the big number, but it's still very, very important.

"It's all tied in. If you want to have growth in salaries and have guys be able to have leverage in contract negotiations and flexibility throughout their careers, then you need to have some of those things."

Still no formal talks

The NHLPA had an afternoon teleconference for the players Thursday. It's believed it was simply informational, even though it came a couple of days after NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had what he described as a "substantive" conversation with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr.

The union wants to resume formal negotiations -- "We've been pushing for that now for a week, 10 days," Adams said -- but the league has been resistant.

So, like the fans, the players are searching for ways to be patient.

"I think you just learn not to get too high or too low," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "You just take whatever information you can get and just kind of wait and see.

"The only real high, or the only real point when you thought there was going to be a bit of a spark, was a couple weeks ago when there were four total proposals in four days. That was good. There was dialogue.

"I think that's all you really look for is good dialogue. It doesn't have to be settled in one day."

The NHL at that point had a proposal that included a 50-50 revenue split, but the players were dismayed by some of the details of the offer.

The union countered with three alternative proposals, all of which were quickly rejected by the league.

Player updates

Five Penguins skated at Southpointe, all forwards: Adams, Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy. ... Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland assisted on the winning goal as RIHK beat Valerenga, 5-2, in the Get-Ligaen of Norway.

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