Gary Bettman hopes to start NHL labor talks soon

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expects negotiations with the players' association on a new collective bargaining agreement to begin in a couple of weeks.

In a wide-ranging 25-minute news conference before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, Bettman said talk of a lockout next season is nothing more than speculation at this point since labor and management have not met.

The NHL canceled the 2004-05 season before an agreement was reached that included a salary cap for the first time. That agreement expires in Sept. 15.

NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr attended the news conference and confirmed the sides planned to meet soon.

Bettman also said he expects the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to be finalized and that he is hopeful that Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek will be able to stabilize his financial position with the team. The commissioner also shot down a New York newspaper report that the Kings were for sale.