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NHL general managers acknowledge economic crisis @NHLdotcom

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) -After two days focused on fighting, NHL general managers finally turned their attention to the sagging economy on the final day of their annual meeting.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday he expects the salary cap to be "about where it was this year" for next season, but there's more uncertainty about 2010-11. The collective bargaining agreement, reached after the 2004-05 NHL lockout, is set to expire in 2011. Players could vote to extend it for another year.

The recent decline of the Canadian dollar will also affect revenues, Bettman said.

"We've very leery of contracts that run into the 2010-11 season. We think it's going to be very tough," said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. "I think we'd be delusional to think we'd not see some impact (from the poor economy)."

Added Ken Holland, GM of the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings: "We know we're going to lose some players (in the next two seasons)."

The general managers also voted against a proposal Wednesday to change the tiebreaking procedure for playoffs. Holland had suggested making regulation wins the first tiebreaker instead of overall wins. This would avoid rewarding teams who win in shootouts, which aren't considered "real" wins by hockey purists.

Burke said he thinks Holland's idea could be passed in the future.

"I think it makes a lot of sense," Burke added.

Burke got a victory of his own on Wednesday, as one of his many proposals was finally passed by general managers who agreed that TV timeouts should be allowed after an icing penalty.

But Burke's proposal that teams could continue to pay some of a player's salary after trading him, in order to complete trades that might not otherwise go through, was still stuck in neutral.

"I think it's gathering support," said Holland, who would like to see the proposal pass.

On Tuesday, the GM's tackled their top issue - fighting - by suggesting a new rule to punish "staged" fights with a 10-minute misconduct penalty and more aggressive calling of the instigator penalty. Bettman said the group had also recommended earlier intervention from the linesmen if a fight was clearly one-sided.

The death of Don Sanderson prompted a serious discussion about fighting at this year's meetings. Sanderson, an Ontario, Canada, native died in January of injuries sustained when his head struck the ice during a hockey fight in an amateur league

"Fighting has always been an emotional issue," said Bettman, who maintained fighting's relevance to the NHL. "The overwhelming sentiment is that (fighting) is a part of the game. These are tweaks around the edges."

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