ST. LOUIS — With the NHL and NHL Players Association remaining at an impasse, the potential Sept. 15 lockout deadline is flashing like a bright neon sign over a league that could see all or a portion of the season lost.
League officials and a large contingent of players are expected to meet separately in New York next week, but plenty of differences remain.
No immediate negotiations are scheduled with financial issues the main stumbling block between the sides. If it happens, this would be the NHL's third labor lockout in 18 years.
Labor issues led to the entire 2004-05 season being canceled.
"We're hoping that the NHL and NHLPA gets something settled by Sept. 15 and this is a non-issue," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said Thursday when asked about the possibility of top prospect Vladimir Tarasenko returning to play in the Russian pro league in case of a lockout.
Another choice for Tarasenko is remaining in North America to play for the Blues' top farm team in Peoria. Would it bother Armstrong to see Tarasenko return to play in Russia?
"No, not really," Armstrong said. "We're hoping that it doesn't happen, but this would be the fourth one of these work stoppages I've been through.
"You support the players because ultimately this is an NHL-NHLPA big issue, not a team-by-team or player-by-player issue."
Armstrong wants all the players on his roster ready to go whenever the season starts. Plenty of questions remain as to who would be playing where, but some players like Tarasenko and fellow prospects Ian Cole, Philip McRae and Jaden Schwartz do have the option of playing at Peoria.
"Whether (Tarasenko) continues to train or play in the KHL or does it in the American Hockey League, as long as he's ready to play when the puck drops..." Armstrong said.
Armstrong said during the last work stoppage, the NHL was already into the training camp phase.
"This CBA (collective bargaining agreement) expires before training camp starts, so we haven't really got the information yet from the NHL and the NHLPA," Armstrong said. "I'm hoping if we get to a situation where we might not start on time that both sides agree to rules that allow the players that aren't really involved in this process to continue to play.
"The fans in Peoria and the fans across the AHL shouldn't be affected by this,."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.