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This article was published 9/3/2012 (3245 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


This is supposed to be Colin Campbell's meeting, but don't be surprised if it quickly turns into Bill Daly's.

The NHL's general managers will gather in Boca Raton, Fla., Monday and Tuesday to discuss the state of the game, but most issues are expected to be pushed to the back burner with only the collective bargaining agreement and the potential of a lockout holding the interest of the game's decision-makers.

The NHLPA's Donald Fehr (left) and the NHL's Bill Daly (below): The players and league have some major issues to resolve in a new collective bargaining agreement. The current one expires in September.


The NHLPA's Donald Fehr (left) and the NHL's Bill Daly (below): The players and league have some major issues to resolve in a new collective bargaining agreement. The current one expires in September.

Campbell, senior VP of hockey operations, sets the agenda but the GMs control the discussion, and it's expected they'll push aside most topics in order to get to their time with deputy commissioner Bill Daly and his thoughts on the CBA.

The NHL's agreement with the NHLPA expires in September and little progress has been made on putting together a new deal. A work stoppage next season is entirely possible.

For GMs, the CBA is a working tool that guides most day-to-day decisions and big-picture organizational thinking.

Bill Daly


Bill Daly

The salary cap and where it's going to go due to a new CBA is in itself an issue that could severely hamper GMs and their ability to act. How does a team move forward in free agency if it doesn't know how much money it's going to have to spend?

Rule changes may be in vogue and interesting for fans to kick around, but there will be little appetite to discuss anything but the CBA, say team executives we polled.

One issue that has several foreheads wrinkling is the status of exit medicals at the end of this season. All players must be cleared by their team's medical staff at season's end. Those not cleared can't be bought out and must be paid their full salaries, lockout or not.

GMs point to the rise in diagnosed concussions as a potential problem this summer. It's accepted that there are undeclared head injuries in the NHL and most teams have only a loose handle on who is concussed at any given time.

Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets played a number of weeks this season before reporting symptoms and subsequently being shut down by the club's medical staff.

When this season ends and exit medicals take place, GMs fear there will be number of players that have already been deactivated due to concussion and even more will step forward with symptoms.

Once a player has been diagnosed with a concussion, clearing him for play is a tricky act. It's not like a knee, where a doctor can look at an X-ray and verify or refute its soundness.

No one is overtly suggesting players will embellish symptoms, but this is a new issue that wasn't faced during the last work stoppage.

If there's no money coming in, financially troubled teams will feel the pinch of having to pay out a number of contracts to medically unfit players.

The current entry-level system, which has players sign three-year contracts to begin their NHL careers, is also an area of contention for GMs. They want to extend this to a four- or five-year term as well as make changes to arbitration rights and have more control of their salary management through these systems.

Many teams say the economics of team management are tied directly to these systems and insist they are deal-breakers.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr continues to collect information and has yet to report he is ready to begin formal talks.

The GMs will want to give Daly input prior to talks and get his feedback on where he thinks negotiations could be headed.

So it's unlikely any exciting changes to the game will result from these meetings, but the future of the NHL, and next season in particular, are very much in play nonetheless.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless