Looming NHL lockout does not faze Penguins
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With the NHL poised to lock out its players at midnight tonight, one minute after the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NHL Players' Association expires, there could be a lot of hand-wringing.
By fans, anyway. Not so much among the players.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, asked what he might do today at his offseason Boston area home, thought for a second.
"Probably go golf, maybe the beach," he said. "It's supposed to be nice out."
Orpik wasn't trying to be flippant or make light of the strained labor situation between the NHL and the players.
He was just driving home what seems to be a point of consensus on the union side that the end of the CBA and the start of a lockout is, at most, a very soft deadline in negotiations toward a new CBA.
"Just another day," said Penguins winger James Neal, who will monitor things today the same way he has been. "We'll see what happens."
As of late Friday, there were no talks scheduled between the league and the NHLPA. The sides exchanged proposals Wednesday and seem willing to continue talks -- if the opposing side has some new concession to offer when it comes to splitting league revenue.
The players have been getting 57 percent of revenues. They have come down some in their latest proposal, factoring in revenue growth. The NHL has come up a little from its initial offer of 46 percent, based on a phase-in over a few years. In terms of dollars, the sides remain many millions apart.
There is some thought that it might eventually be settled at something close to 50-50, but that requires one side to blink. The players insist they don't want a lockout, but they don't see the start of one as an indication that all is lost or hopeless.
Training camp for the Penguins is scheduled to begin Friday, and the NHL regular season starts Oct. 11. Those dates certainly are in jeopardy if there is a lockout, but the only thing that might change, Penguins winger Chris Kunitz said, is that a work stoppage might increase the drive to reach an agreement.
"We want a fair deal," Kunitz said. "Just to get to that level, we might have to have an artificial date of a lockout. Hopefully, they continue to talk.
"I think everybody's going to prepare just like you were going to camp starting on the 21st. That's the approach we have to take, as if there's going to be a solution to the problem."
One that hinges on the league and players finding some sort of common ground on what player salaries should be, in addition to agreeing on several other topics, including free agency, arbitration, realignment and Olympic participation.
The way the players see it, those issues aren't going to change between today and tomorrow.
"I don't think the 15th is such a big date," Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "Camp starts the 21st. The season starts Oct. 11. It might take a little more time to get things done, but the sooner, the better."
There were some last-minute business matters Friday.
The Penguins waived seven players -- forwards Philippe Dupuis, Benn Ferriero, Riley Holzapfel, Warren Peters and Trevor Smith, and defensemen Dylan Reese and Alex Grant -- so that they could be assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to play there during a work stoppage.
At Southpointe, where several Penguins have been skating weekdays in informal practices, the 14 participants Friday packed their gear afterward because they won't have access to the locker-room facilities maintained by the Penguins -- or be allowed to have any contact with the club -- if they are locked out.
Winger Pascal Dupuis said changes over the weekend if there is a lockout won't affect him much, and he remains optimistic.
"Same thing," he said when asked about his plans today with the end of the CBA approaching. "I'll be in Pittsburgh training and getting ready for camp.
"Something will happen. I think the 15th doesn't matter. Training camp starts the 21st."
First Published September 15, 2012 12:04 am