March 14, 2012

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) -- NHL general managers ended three days of meetings Wednesday with little discussion about upcoming collective bargaining negotiations between the league and the NHL Players' Association.

The current agreement, that ended the season-long lockout in 2005, expires Sept. 15. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told the general managers to conduct "business as usual'' according to the current agreement, including working under the salary cap of between $63 million and $64 million.

"The update is, there was no update because there's nothing going on,'' Bettman said. "Whatever will be, will be.

"The fact is when the union is ready to negotiate, we'll sit down. I'm not particularly concerned about the timeline. We have new union leadership and a lot of new personnel, and my guess is they still have a lot of work to do.''

At its request, the NHLPA was recently given initial financial information by the NHL that the union is currently reviewing. There is no timetable for discussions with the league to start.

"We are continuing to meet with players across the league as part of our preparations for the upcoming CBA negotiations,'' NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said in a statement. "While we do not have a set-date for formal negotiations to begin, we expect negotiations will begin when we have players available to participate in bargaining sessions.''

Bettman's message to put the labor issues on the back burner was heeded. As they left the meetings, general managers Paul Holmgren of the Philadelphia Flyers, Lou Lamoriello of the New Jersey Devils, Ray Shero of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jay Feaster of the Calgary Flames all said that the collective bargaining agreement wasn't discussed.

"We're going to all do what we have to do by letting the league worry about the CBA, and us doing business as usual,'' Holmgren said. "I think you have to be cautious every year, and I don't think it matters what the (salary cap) number is because everybody has their own budget.

"Everybody has to look in the mirror and do what they think is right.''

The most significant outcome of the this week's meetings was that the general managers are unified in supporting the adoption of a hybrid icing rule. The theory is that ending the race for the puck at the faceoff dot rather than 3 feet from the boards at the goal line will eliminate some serious injuries - including concussions.

Bettman also said the league's board of governors has dropped the concept of realignment for now. The NHL was trying to introduce a plan that would move some teams, such as the relocated Winnipeg Jets who are still in the Eastern Conference, to different divisions and start the playoffs with teams in the same divisions.

The hope of realignment was tabled to avoid "confrontation'' with the players' association and because the league needed to start planning the 2012-13 season schedule.

"My guess is we'll deal with realignment when we deal with a whole host of other issues, and our hope is we'll get to the place where we think we should be,'' Bettman said. "We thought we had a good plan, and it's one we thought should be in effect.

"It's something the board still wants to do. We ran out of time, and that's why we said we'll keep what we have. I wasn't looking for a confrontation.''

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