Those looking for clues to the outcome of the NHL labor negotiations that threaten the start of the regular season found a negative one yesterday when the league postponed its waiver draft indefinitely.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said he will postpone the season's start (scheduled for Saturday) indefinitely if a collective bargaining agreement has not been reached.
According to league rules, the draft must be held within seven days of the start of the season, and it will be rescheduled when the start date is certain.
Meanwhile, NHL players are wondering what their options would be.
NHL Players Association spokesman Steve McAllister said union lawyers have not "explored all the options" available to players should a lockout occur, but speculated players should be able to seek employment among International Hockey League teams that are not affiliated with the NHL.
"Our position is we're available to work," said Capitals forward Kelly Miller. "We're here. We're ready to start the season. If the owners won't let us work, then we should be able to go elsewhere."
The position of the NHL owners is different.
"We've been told by our NHL attorneys that players will not be allowed to play hockey for other teams," said Poile. "The players are all under contract, whether the season opens or not."
Yesterday, Washington's locker room was a mix of hope and disappointment.
"The owners have a conference call [today]," said Caps defenseman Jim Johnson. "Maybe something positive comes out that. For the players here, the most disappointing thing right now is that we've gone through so much in this camp to get ready for the season, and now to throw it all away . . . there is such a low feeling.
"If it's not settled by Saturday, it doesn't look like a short thing. I think everyone is thinking about where they're going to go and what they're going to do."