Mighty Duck President Tony Tavares, General Manager Jack Ferreira and Paul Kariya's agent renewed contract negotiations Thursday, meeting face to face for the first time in more than a month.
The meeting, which took place in Chicago, is an indication each side would like to resolve the stalemate soon. A lengthy absence could prove damaging to the Ducks' hopes for a second consecutive Stanley Cup playoff appearance.
The Ducks (1-2-2) have struggled to score goals without Kariya, averaging fewer than two per game after five games. What's more, they are 2-12-4 without Kariya in the lineup in the last two seasons.
"There's no agreement," said Don Baizley, Kariya's agent, "[but] we don't have a rupture in our relationship. We have a civilized disagreement. Each side is frustrated the other can't see it their way. But both sides are still talking. We talked today."
Baizley refused to guess when Kariya, the NHL's third-leading scorer with 44 goals and 99 points last season, might be signed or whether he might sit out the season. An NHL source said last weekend that Kariya was angered by a take-it-or-leave-it offer by Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner last month and was considering sitting out the 1997-98 season.
"I'd have to say, 'I don't know,' " Baizley said when asked about the prospects of a season-long holdout.
Duck Coach Pierre Page has been advocating more face-to-face meetings for quite some time.
"Basically, my wish for everybody is that the people will meet," Page said Thursday night. "It doesn't matter what they say to each other as long as they can sit down and talk. Usually, when you go face-to-face it goes better.
"But it's like everything else, you've got to make the commitment. It's easy to make a deal when you want to make a deal.
"So make a deal."
Kariya is one of several restricted free agents who have yet to sign new contracts. Detroit's Sergei Fedorov and Phoenix's Oleg Tverdovsky are among the other unsigned players.
What's the holdup?
Eisner's ultimatum could be a reason for Kariya's absence, but Tavares and Ferreira say they have yet to receive a counter-offer from Baizley on their $7-million-per-season offer.
"I don't think I can get into substance," Baizley said. "In any contract there are two big issues to be resolved: term and compensation. Clearly, they are the two big issues here."
Baizley denied a take-it-or-leave-it offer was made by Eisner. He also discounted a recent newspaper report that said Kariya was asking for between $8 million and $8.5 million per season.
"There's been speculation with regard to Paul's money demands, and they're wrong," Baizley said. "There is frustration [between the team and Baizley], but our relationship is pretty civilized."
Neither Tavares nor Ferreira could be reached for comment.