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Bettman: 'Still time' for deal to keep Isles on LI

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters in

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters in Glendale, Ariz., before a hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Phoenix Coyotes. (March 8, 2011) Credit: AP

NEWARK -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated his call for a new arena for the Islanders during his state of the sport address before last night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but did not have much more information other than that on the team.

"Charles Wang is continuing, despite tremendous frustration, to look at all options to keep the club in the metropolitan area," Bettman told reporters at the Prudential Center before the start of the Devils-Kings game.

Wang has not spoken publicly since an appearance on MSG Network's pregame show on April 1, when he stated he was committed to keeping the Islanders in the area beyond the end of the Nassau Coliseum lease in 2015 even if the Islanders no longer play at the Coliseum.

"There is still time" to come to a deal to keep the team on Long Island, Bettman noted, but declined to elaborate further.

The Islanders will face the Devils at Brooklyn's Barclays Center in a preseason game on Oct. 2. The Nets' new home is the newest arena in the area, so talk naturally has turned to the Islanders possibly moving there, but Wang has stayed quiet on the topic of moving and/or selling the team.

Of more pressing note to Bettman is the possible beginning of talks with Don Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, on a new collective-bargaining agreement.

Bettman said he recently had gotten indications from Fehr that the union was prepared to open talks on a new CBA. The current agreement, forged after a year-long lockout that erased the 2004-05 season, expires on Sept. 1, and both sides noted the atmosphere heading into talks this time is very different than eight years ago.

"Labor peace is preferable to the alternative," Bettman said, adding that he expected talks to begin in some form within the next several weeks. Fehr, who listened to Bettman's address and question-and-answer session, then held one of his own at the back of the same interview room.

"You don't have the kind of atmosphere going in [that was there before]," said Fehr, the former head of the MLB Players Association. Though he did add, "The players know what happened last time," referring to the lost year and 24 percent salary rollback that was part of the 2005 CBA.

Bettman also addressed the financial situations of the finalists. He said he believes that Devils managing partner Jeffrey Vanderbeek was close to finding either a new partner or several new partners to help make an $80-million debt payment that is due this summer; as to a report Wednesdaythat the Kings were for sale, Bettman called it "categorically untrue."

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