While players begin making plans to playelsewhere and teams contemplate cancelling rookie camps, the key negotiatorsfor the NHLs next Collective Bargaining Agreement continue to hash out theirdifferences in closed-door meetings in New York.NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and debuty commissionerBill Daly and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and his deputy and brother,Steve Fehr, are expected to meet throughout the weekend in an effort to avoid aSept. 15 lockout.(Were) trying to find a way to bridge thegap, Fehr told reporters on Friday. Thats always the intent."We expect discussions to resume.Bettman would not address if there wasprogress made in the two-hour meeting, the first since talks broke off on Aug.31, but is encouraged by the fact the two sides continue to talk.We'd like to make a deal," Bettman said.There is an ebb and flow to negotiations. It's always good to have dialogue.With rookie camps scheduled to begin on Sept.16 and travel plans for players already in place, some NHL teams have begun cancellingevents. The Bruins announced Friday that they will not conduct their annualrookie camp and tournament.A Capitals spokesperson said Friday that thestatus of the teams annual rookie game against the Flyers scheduled for Thursday,Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex is to be determined. Caps generalmanager George McPhee said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to rookie camp.The Caps are scheduled to open theirpreseason schedule on Tuesday, Sept.25 against the Boston Bruins at VerizonCenter, followed by the second annual Baltimore Hockey Classic against theColumbus Blue Jackets at 1st Mariner Arena on Sept. 26. Tickets are beingmade available for both events on the teams website,www.washingtoncapitals.com.Key dates in NHLs labor negotiationsJuly 13 -- The NHL makes its first proposal to the NHLPA, reducingthe players share of hockey-related revenue HRR from 57 percent to 43percent. The proposal also redefines how HRR is reported.Aug. 13 -- The NHLPA makes a counterproposal stating playersare willing to give up a percentage of their salaries for three years, with asnap-back to 57 percent in Year 4. Under the proposal, the salary cap wouldstart at 69 million this season.Aug. 28 -- The NHL makes its own counterproposal, removingits request for redefining HRR and increasing the players share of revenue inYear 4 of its proposal from 43 percent to 46 percent.Aug. 31 -- The NHLPA tries altering the parameters of Year 4of the NHLs counterproposal, but talks break down with no future talksscheduled.Sept. 7 Informal talks resume with tentative plans tocontinue through the weekend.
When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.
Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.
Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.
One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.
Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.
Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.
Or perhaps it could mean something else.
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Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.
When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.
Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.
On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.
The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.
"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."
The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.
"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."
Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.
When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.
As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up on the air.
"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."
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