IIHF: Total NHLers with deals hits 245

TORONTO -- Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips, Buffalo goalie Mika Noronen, Florida defenseman Eric Cairns and Toronto center Aaron Gavey signed this week to play in Europe during the NHL lockout.

There are now 245 NHL players who have gone to Europe during the labor dispute, the International Ice Hockey Federation said. The Czech league leads the way with 52 of the NHL's 750 players. Sweden is next with 48 players, followed by Russia with 45.

After Tuesday's union meeting in Toronto, a couple players defended the right of NHL players to take jobs away from Europeans.

"That's the nature of employment in all walks of life, someone is always taking someone else's job," St. Louis Blues defenseman Chris Pronger said. "We're locked out, we don't have a job. We're free to look for employment elsewhere. If we were on strike, I would feel different."

Vancouver Canucks forward Trevor Linden, the president of the players' union, echoed Pronger's comments, but former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch and Edmonton Oilers forward Georges Laraque have criticized the signings.

Phillips, who signed with Brynas in Sweden on Wednesday, had seven goals and 16 assists in 82 games last season.

Noronen, a backup goalie in Buffalo, joined HPK Hameenlinna in Finland on Tuesday.

Cairns, who joined the London Racers in Britain, had two goals and six assists in 72 games with the New York Islanders last season, and his 189 penalty minutes were the most among NHL defensemen.

Gavey signed with Storhamar in Norway. He played in five games in Toronto last season.