No report of progress after latest talks


TORONTO -- The NHL and its players' union held another small
group session of contract discussions Monday, making slow progress
in hopes of ending the ninth-month lockout.

The basic structure of a salary cap linked league-wide to
revenues, with an upper and lower limit on team payrolls, is being
discussed. The two sides have made some headway in the areas of
free agency, qualifying offers, salary arbitration, entry-level
contracts, drug testing, rules changes and Olympic participation.

The tedious process of agreeing on the language of a contract
would be no small task. The NHL announced a deal 10 years ago, in a
hurry to salvage the 1994-95 season, and was later dismayed at how
some parts of the agreement ended up sounding different then what
the league believed was agreed to.

If an agreement is reached soon, the NHL will be eager to hold
its entry draft, with junior star Sidney Crosby the biggest prize.

Not that many players are under contract for the 2005-06 season.
Counting players who were on NHL rosters for at least 90 days in
2003-04, 288 players will be under contract July 1.

The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders have the fewest players
under contract for next season -- five apiece -- while the Washington Capitals have only six and the Carolina Hurricanes seven.

In contrast, the Phoenix Coyotes already have 21 players signed
for next season, while the Columbus Blue Jackets have 20.