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Sides last met March 17

3/31/2005

NEW YORK -- The NHL and players' association will hold the
next round of labor talks early next week, with the union having
little time remaining to make a deal that doesn't link league
revenues to player costs.

A source close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on
Wednesday night on the condition of anonymity that the sides will
get together Monday at an undisclosed location.

It will be the first negotiating session since the league made
two proposals on March 17 -- one including the cost-certainty link
and one without it.

Also Wednesday, the players' association responded to a letter
sent by NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly regarding reports that
the union was planning to decertify agents that represented
replacement players next season.

A source told ESPN.com the NHL is poised to file a second complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the players' association on Friday. The sourced added that the NHLPA's answer Wednesday wasn't satisfactory enough to allay the league's concerns, the source added.

Last week, Canadian sports channel The Sports Network reported the NHLPA has indicated that any player agent would be in danger of losing their certification if they negotiated a contract for a replacement player.

The league requested on March 24 that the union deny the
reports.

Daly wrote in the letter -- obtained by The Associated Press --
that the union's threats to punish player agents, if true, violate
the National Labor Relations Act as well as the league's expired
collective bargaining agreement.

Daly said Wednesday that there would be further follow-up on the
subject but declined to provide details.

This issue, as well as last week's labor charge filed by the
league, is in addition to the basic stalemate that led to the
lockout that wiped out all of last season and the draft scheduled
for June.

The NHL pulled the de-linked proposal off the table once the
season was canceled on Feb. 16, but reinstated the offer at the
last meeting. However, the league's willingness to make that kind
of a deal has a short shelf life.

If that is going to be the basis for a new collective bargaining
agreement, a deal would have to be reached by April 8 -- 12 days
before the NHL board of governors is slated to meet again.

In the last bargaining session, the NHL offered an unlinked
proposal -- the players' association's preference -- that would set
each team's salary cap at $37.5 million.

The league would rather reach an agreement that guarantees cost
certainty for the 30 clubs. Its latest offer with that structure
would limit player costs to 54 percent of the league's revenues.

Barring a quick settlement, the topic of replacement players is
expected to be on the agenda during the board of governors meeting
on April 20.

The NHL has already turned the heat up on the players'
association.

The league filed a charge last week with the National Labor
Relations Board that claims a players' association policy that
would penalize members who became replacements is coercive and in
violation of their rights.

Union members currently receive between $5,000 and $10,000 per
month during the lockout.

The dispute is over an apparent policy that would force members
to pay back the money should they become replacement players next
season.

The players' association denied those charges.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.