Without labor peace, some Penguins look for work
The deadline for a new NHL collective bargaining agreement arrived late Saturday.
Soon, some of the Penguins could be departing.
Team owners were poised to lock out their players at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, as league officials declined to meet with Players' Association representatives earlier in the day because, as deputy commissioner Bill Daly explained, “there was no point in convening a formal bargaining session in light of the fact that neither side is in a position to move off of its last proposal.”
How to split revenue is the key point of contention.
The lockout would be the third to hit a major sports league in 18 months, following ones in the NFL and the NBA.
With a lengthy lockout possible, many players said they would look for employment overseas or in the AHL.
Playing in the NHL remains ideal but not necessarily realistic in the short term.
“Obviously it's not looking real good right now,” Penguins center Brandon Sutter said. “Guys will have decisions to make.”
The NHL season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11. The Penguins are slated to open their season at home Oct. 12 against the New York Islanders. Training camp is supposed to open Friday, but that likely won't happen.
“Not a real good vibe right now,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
One of the highest-profile Penguins already has decided to play elsewhere.
Evgeni Malkin, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, will play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL. The two-time NHL scoring champion will play with former Penguins teammate Sergei Gonchar in Russia.
Captain Sidney Crosby acknowledged that playing in Europe remains a possibility but said rumors that he already has spoken with a Swedish team are untrue.
“We'll wait and see,” Crosby said.
Defenseman Deryk Engelland is another member of the Penguins who might look for work elsewhere. He has established himself as a solid defenseman during the past two seasons and would rather play than sit.
“I want to build off what I've accomplished the last two years,” he said. “It's a bit of a setback here, but I want to play hockey no matter what.”
Eric Tangradi said he likely will play for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if a lockout persists. Tangradi would be forced to negotiate a new deal with Penguins' minor league affiliate to play there, but he said he prefers to play within the confines of the Penguins' system than go overseas.
Other young players will play in the AHL, too, including Gibsonia native Brandon Saad, who told the Tribune-Review he will play for Rockford, the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate.
Some players are clinging to optimism.
“I haven't considered playing anywhere else,” Sutter said. “I'm hoping we won't be locked out for too long. Plus, I already moved once this summer.”
For now, the Penguins will continue what they started two weeks ago.
Most of the players, including Crosby, have been skating daily at the team's practice facility at Southpointe. They will continue to skate at Southpointe and perhaps other local rinks to stay in shape.
“We have got to be ready,” Engelland said, “because this could be over in a day, a week, a month. You just don't know.”
Note: The Penguins designated the following players for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this weekend: Forwards Beau Bennett, Brian Gibbons, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl, Zach Sill, Paul Thompson, Dominik Uher, Keven Veilleux, Philippe Dupuis, Benn Ferriero, Riley Holzapfel, Warren Peters and Trevor Smith; defensemen Simon Despres, Joe Morrow, Brian Dumoulin, Reid McNeill, Philip Samuelsson, Carl Sneep, Alex Grant and Dylan Reese; and goaltender Patrick Killeen.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.