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February 24, 2004 - Agent not worried by pace of talks
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Agent not worried by pace of talks

February 24, 2004

BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Agent Don Meehan said Monday he "wouldn't be concerned" if center Kris Draper or defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom didn't re-sign with the Red Wings before they could become unrestricted free agents July 1. They aren't looking to go anywhere else.

"The priorities of both players are to be back in Detroit," Meehan said. "If that were not to happen, we would have exhausted every opportunity and every avenue."

Meehan and general manager Ken Holland have had preliminary discussions recently about contract extensions for Draper and Lidstrom. They saw each other at the team hotel Monday.

"I think Kenny is going to come back to me at an appropriate time, then we'll have further discussions," Meehan said. "Kenny's the kind of guy that is proactive and is progressive in relation to these discussions. This isn't a situation where he's going to kind of let it go for a while. He'll be back to me."

The Wings have several potential unrestricted free agents, and Holland said he had plans to speak to a number of agents this week. He said he would halt talks April 1 because of the playoffs.

"A lot of these guys, we do want back," he said. "If the number is a reasonable number, we'll do something. If we've got to sit and wait, we'll sit and wait. I don't know if there's going to be as much negotiation as there has been in the past because of the labor situation."

The collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15. The league is pushing for a cost-control system; the players are fighting to keep an open market and no one knows what the rules will be. Many expect a lockout.

Meehan said the labor situation affected everything. But he added: "We won't let that affect our negotiations, unless of course Ken sits back and says they really want to look at whatever (the) new system might be and that might determine what kind of position he takes in negotiations, and that's not something we can control."

Asked whether he would be willing to make compromises because of the situation or build in contingencies for a new system, Meehan said. "That hasn't come up as part of our discussions. But it's an issue that might."

HASEK UPDATE: Holland said he spoke with Rich Winter,goaltender Dominik Hasek's Edmonton-based agent, but there was nothing new to report.

After Hasek ended his season Feb. 10 because of a groin injury, Holland said the Wings would get relief from Hasek's $6-million salary.

Hasek has been good about the relief, according to people close to the situation. But it remains to be seen whether Hasek and the Wings will work out something amicably.

He has returned to the Czech Republic for the time being.