Sides last met March 17

Updated: March 31, 2005, 1:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

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