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Haggerty: NHL's brutal offer sets stage for work stoppage

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Haggerty: NHL's brutal offer sets stage for work stoppage

Well, so much for a summer of cordial labor negotiations between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.

Sources within the NHLPA confirmed to CSNNE.com over the weekend that the laughable first offer submitted by the NHL last week was indeed not a rumor.

Here is the Greatest Hits package from the offer that left players scratching their heads:

The players would take an 11 percent cut from 57 percent of the revenue share to 46 percent. And they could take a cut of well over 20 percent as both sides haggle over what actually constitutes Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) in the next collective bargaining agreement.

The Salary Cap next season would be 52.516 million under the NHL's proposal or more than 10 million less than it was during the 2011-12 NHL season. The cap ceiling would be just 4 million over the midpoint for each team. (According to capgeek.com 19 NHL teams are already over the proposed cap ceiling and the league is already 130 million in guaranteed money over the allowable salary for next season. The salary cap floor would remain 8 million under the midpoint total for each team.)

There would be a five-year term limit on player contracts with no signing bonuses, no arbitration rights and a minimum of 10 years of service within the NHL before a player is granted free agency. Currently a player is granted unrestricted free agency after seven NHL seasons or after reaching 27 years of age. Entry-level contracts for rookie players would extend from three years to five years.

And those are just a few of the changes listed in the NHL's draconian openingoffer.

The league basically wants a caste system setin place in a league where not a single player is inthe top 50 money-earners among US athletes. It wants to scale back player cost and hopes to turn the NHL into a throwback league where players are little more than indentured servants.

In the proposed system the players have little bargaining power or negotiating clout until they are close to 30 years old. Until then, they'll simply have to eat whatever the owners decide to force-feed them as all proathletes did before the days of Curt Flood in Major League Baseball.

One source from the players end of things told CSNNE.com there wasnt a single thing in the NHL proposal that would be embraced or approved by the NHLPA membership. Not even close.

Instead the players are now trying to decide whether they should even accept the leagues first proposal as anything more than a list of stale jokes left over from the NHL Awards show.

Its interesting that the owners have made this proposal on the heels of their complaints about a broken system they missed an entire season to install in the first place. In reality, theyve reached record highs in revenue over the last five seasons culminating in a record3.3 billion last year.

Exhibit A of the leagues hypocrisy: Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold complained about the need for a CBA change just months before ladling out 196 million in guaranteed money to both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Heres what Leopold told the Star Tribune in April: "We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now. The Wild's revenues are fine. We're down a little bit in attendance, but we're up in sponsorships, we're up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we're generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And the Wild's biggest expense by far is player salaries.

Not a math major, Mr. Leopold, but it sounds like you willingly signed off on one of the biggest free agent spending binges in NHL history.

Plenty of fun can be had with numbers over the course of negotiations, but it's worth nothing that thatleague revenues have gone up by 50 percent since the end of the lockout in 2005. Player salaries have gone up by a rate of 15 percent during the same period of time.

The NHLs first CBA offer was unreasonable and one-sided, to put it kindly. It points to a summer-longexchange of labor ideas that will be far from the hug-fest both Bettman and Fehrwaxed hopefulaboutduring the last few months of the NHL season.

There are normally two types of negotiations in pro sports, no matter what the situation. There is the cordial, professional type of contract talks where both sides want desperately to get a deal done. During those negotiations there are little if any hurt feelings when a resolution has been reached.A "happily ever after"marriage usuallycontinues on both sides afterward.

Then there are the negotiations where one side is immediately insulted by a lowball offer meant to either A) create dissension between the party theyre negotiating with or B) send a message there really isnt a desire to reach common ground on a new contract.

Im willing to go with the former rather than the latter when it comes to the NHL as they have plenty to lose: television deals, rising ratings and record revenues along with that TV jewel known as the Winter Classic.

The NHL also has a group of elite hockey players they have no choice but to employ if they want to keep the good hockey times rolling.

But the leagues recent offer makes a work stoppage a distinct possibility. Both sides are getting ready to meet in New York this week to see if that can be avoided at this early stage of negotiations.

Most industry insiders felt that a few months of the season would probably be missed, much like what the NBA went through last year. "When looking at labor negotiations you always look toward the other sports," said one industry insider to CSNNE.com. "The NBA didn't get started until Christmas, but attendance and TV ratings were strong by the time the playoffs rolled around. Nobody remembered the work stoppage. So the NHL could survive if they miss a few months."The presiding feeling was that the season would be back on schedule by December -- or at the very worst casewhenthe Winter Classic was set to arrive on New Years Day.

Now those thoughts have been shaken by one miserly, Montgomery Burns-likeoffer.

Its unclear whether the NHLPA plans to bring a counter-offer with them to the Big Apple as Bettman and Fehr ready for another round of discussions this week. But it might behoove the NHLPA to let the league know they mean business by coming down hard on the gag-filled first offering.

Perhaps Fehr and his players will take the tact Michael Corleone chose in Godfather II. When Michael was being insulted by a crooked senator during an attempt to venture into the casino business, he provided us this cold-bloodedline:

You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: Nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

Perhaps Fehr and Co. could walk into the NHL offices this week, briefcases in hand, and calmly pronounce that their counter-offer is nothing and wait until September when owners might suddenly realize theyre killing their sport.

They must understand that missing an entire year so close to the last lockout is akin to league suicide.

But the NHLs first penny-pinching offer isnt a good sign that play will get underway without a Zdeno Chara-sized hitch this fall. In fact, right now, that seems to be the best-case scenario to an increasingly bad situation.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.