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NY Post

August 22, 2006 -- Loyal. Not loony. Don't count on Brian Gionta to attend Devils training camp without a contract, invited by Lou Lamoriello or not.

The Devils' goal-scoring record-setter is pondering not reporting to South Mountain on Sept. 14 unless his deal is signed, sealed and certified.

"It's something we haven't worked out yet, but you put yourself at a lot of risk," Gionta told The Post yesterday. "It's something we have to talk about."

A restricted free agent who was the NHL's best bargain, scoring 48 goals while earning only $627G last season, Gionta declined his right to salary arbitration, which would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer. Gionta says he wants to remain with the Devils long-term, and wants a multi-year deal, which a one-year award would complicate.

"We're looking for more years. That's the reason we didn't arbitrate," said Gionta, who said he has no regret at not seeking a mediated contract.

Gionta is believed seeking a deal worth some $3.5 million per season, but Lamoriello is already at the $44 million salary cap without Gionta.

amoriello can probably write off Jason Wiemer's 950G as a long-term injury (knee surgery), and perhaps part of Richard Matvichuk's $1.3 million (back surgery), but if he can't shed some of the combined $7.1 million represented by Alex Mogilny and Vladimir Malakhov, he's going to have trouble making cap room for Gionta.

Lamoriello will have to be under the $44 million cap on Oct. 5, and if Gionta isn't signed, and his contract league-certified by Dec. 1, he can't play this season.

"That's a long way away. And it puts just as much pressure on the team as on the player. The team doesn't want to lose the player for the season," Gionta said.

Gionta said he doesn't believe Lamoriello will ask him to accept less than market value in order to solve his cap squeeze.

"I don't feel that's going to happen. Anyway, I can always hold out if I'm unsigned," Gionta said.

Lamoriello has said Gionta and fellow restricteds David Hale and Paul Martin will be welcome at Devils camp next month, a departure from previous situations where unsigned players were denied participation.
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