Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 07/21/05 at 11:21 PM ET
NHL players often say the season is a marathon, not a sprint. But when the NHL reopens for business Saturday, it will be a mad dash. The lengthy talks have compacted the usual signing periods. What lies ahead, according to a union memo to agents that was obtained by USA TODAY: • 2003 draft picks: They must sign by July 28, or they'll re-enter the draft. Philadelphia will be eager to get Jeff Carter and Michael Richards under contract. • Buyouts: Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on July 29 to buy out contracts at two-thirds value without it counting against the cap. • Free agency: It opens Aug. 1, but teams can negotiate with their free agents beforehand. The age for unrestricted free agency remains 31, as of June 30, but it drops next year. More than 400 players can become free agents. • Arbitration: Teams now can take players to arbitration. Previously, only players filed. The filing deadlines are Aug. 11 (players) and Aug. 12 (teams), and cases will be heard from Aug. 22-Sept. 1. Arbitration awards are based on comparisons to other players, and the salaries of those comparables have been rolled back 24%. Plus, any award must be figured into the $39 million team salary cap. • Restricted free agents: They must sign by Dec. 1 or sit out the season. The NHL first sought to make the deadline 14 days after the start of training camp. But few players will want to stay out long, especially after they lost a year's pay.
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