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New Tampa Bay Lightning forward B.J. Crombeen not sounding alarms about labor talks

When it comes to the negotiations between the NHL and the players association over a new collective bargaining agreement, B.J. Crombeen isn't ready to sound any alarms.

It would have been easy to do after the owners' initial proposal, which reportedly drops the players' share of league revenues from 57 percent to 46. Owners also proposed entry-level deals of five years instead of the current three and unrestricted free agency after 10 years instead of the current seven or at age 27.

But Crombeen, the Lightning's new forward who is part of the players association negotiating committee, said, "I just think it's all part of the negotiations."

"Obviously, we're taking it and analyzing it," he said. "We're trying to break down why they made that proposal and where it's coming from. We'll look at it, and when we get a full understanding of it, we'll say where we're coming from."

Crombeen's measured tone reflects what has come from the union leadership. Executive director Donald Fehr has even said players are willing to start the 2012-13 season under the current agreement, which expires Sept. 15, if negotiations for a new one are ongoing and productive.

Crombeen, acquired this month from St. Louis, where he was the team's player representative, attended the first round of negotiations in Toronto and said he likely will attend whatever meetings are scheduled this week.

"I don't think there is any owner, player, anyone in the league or (union) offices that wants to lose a day," he said of starting the season on time.

Not all share that sentiment. The New York Post's Larry Brooks called the owners' initial proposal a "declaration of war" against the players, a phrase repeated by agent Allan Walsh.

Owners also took a public relations hit with the Wild's signing of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to a combined $196 million over 13 years after Minnesota owner Craig Leipold in April told the state's Star-Tribune newspaper his team was in the red and blamed player salaries.

Then came last week's 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Flyers to Predators restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber.

Even so, Crombeen said the exorbitant contracts did not affect how he viewed the owners' proposal that drastically reduce the players' take of overall league revenues but did not include revenue sharing among teams to help the financially weaker organizations.

"We're just in the process of looking at what they proposed," Crombeen said. "I don't think any players have gotten to the point when they're saying 'this guy did this' and 'this guy did that.' And I don't think it's going to get to that point. We're making our decisions moving forward about how we're going to respond."

Asked if he was optimistic a deal would get done by Sept. 15, he said, "That's the hardest thing, because you really can't look too deep into it. Most guys are optimistic because they want to believe it's going to get done, and players are excited to get it done and get back playing. But it's a process. It's going to be a tough process, and it's going to have to go through its course."

New Tampa Bay Lightning forward B.J. Crombeen not sounding alarms about labor talks 07/21/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 23, 2012 11:00am]
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