With season over, work stoppage looms

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Now that the Rangers' season is over, when will we see them next? That all depends on a potential labor stoppage that might threaten the start of next season, if not the entire season altogether.

With the current collective bargaining agreement due to expire Sept. 15, the NHLPA will meet this summer to determine priorities in hammering out a new pact while players' livelihoods hang in the balance.

Rangers player representative Brandon Dubinsky expressed confidence that an agreement can be reached.

"Obviously on the heels of playing, I'm sure there are going to be some discussions coming up. With me being the [NHLPA representative] for this team, moving forward, I think there is going to be some more discussions and stuff like that," Dubinsky said. "The big thing is, we just want to make sure that we find a way to get a fair deal done and we get a deal done, because that will be fair to the fans and the people out there."

Dubinsky said he thinks both sides will be looking to avoid a work stoppage like last time, when the entire 2004-05 season was forfeited.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to make that happen, especially after sort of how big a disaster it was the last time around," Dubinsky said. "I'm sure that both sides are a little more anxious to find a way to get something done. We'll be ready to play next year."

Many other Rangers hadn't even had time to consider the possibility of a jeopardized 2012-13 season with their postseason exit so fresh.

"I haven't thought about it, and I don't mean that taking it lightly," alternate captain Brad Richards said. "I've just been so enthralled that that'll come up as the summer goes. It's something I'll have more time to think about as this kind of wears off."

Said veteran Mike Rupp:

"We've obviously had some meetings with the PA, but I don't think we're really thinking about that in this room. You prepare and you go about it, take the same amount of time you normally take off, then you go about it as the summer progresses. We'll start meeting with the union and start talking about where things are at."

Those who will witness and experience labor negotiations for the first time plan to, as second-year defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, "remain informed to be able to make the best decisions."

Beyond gathering information, McDonagh said he will approach this season like business as usual.

I"ll just continue to prepare and train as if September 16 is our first day of work," McDonagh said. "That's the only way you can do it."