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NHL lockout comes to an end

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NHL lockout comes to an end

Updated: 8:40 p.m. CT

After months' worth of drama, rhetoric, talking and not talking, the NHL and NHLPA have finally agreed to a deal that will salvage part of the 2012-13 season.

The two sides agreed to a tentative 10-year collective bargaining agreement, according to reports, ending a lockout that swallowed up much of the 2012-13 schedule. The deal, which was reached a little before 4 a.m. CT, came after a marathon negotiation session that went more than 16 hours in New York.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr spoke to the media briefly this morning.

"We've reached an agreement on framework of the CBA, the details of which need to be put to paper," Bettman told reporters. "We've got to dot a lot of 'Is' to cross a lot of 'Ts,' but basically the framework has been agreed upon. We have to go through ratification process. The board of governors and players will have to approve. We'e not in the position to give any information. Well be back to you very shortly, hopefully later today, with more information."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, via text, was "really happy" that the lockout was finally over.

"A lot of credit goes to the players who were in the bargaining sessions and worked very hard to get a deal done," Toews said. "I'm excited to play hockey again, although it's bittersweet because a lot of damage was done to our game. As players we need to keep showing our fans we care. We might have a long road ahead of us there, but for now it's great to know well be back on the ice very soon."

RELATED: Range of emotions emerge as lockout comes to an end

Now its a matter of when training camp and the regular season will begin. Its most likely to be a 48-game regular-season, although its still possible to squeeze in 50. Many athletes who were playing with European teams are working to return home. Patrick Kane, who played the past few months for EHC Biel in Switzerland, is headed home according to agent Pat Brisson.

He's home tomorrow, Brisson said via email. He is very excited and looking forward to play.
"Hopefully, in a very few days, fans can get back to watching people who are skating and not the two of us.-- Donald Fehr, on the end of the NHL lockoutCSNPhillys Tim Panaccio, who was in New York for the negotiations, reported that the 2013-14 salary cap, will be 64.3 million. The league originally wanted it to be 60 million and wasnt budging on that for some time. The cap floor will be 44 million. For 2013-14, the Blackhawks currently have 57.2 million of cap payroll spent on 17 players.

The cap for the remainder of this season is 70.2 million. And players' maximum length of contracts is now reportedly seven years (eight if the player is re-signing with his current team).

One of the first people Bettman thanked was federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who was a key component in these negotiations down the stretch. Beckenbaugh, who had had several fruitless meetings with the two sides in the past, helped bridge the gap between the league and NHLPA this weekend. Beckenbaugh spent about 13 hours on Friday going between the two groups before they all got together on Saturdayearly Sunday.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George H. Cohen recognized Beckenbaugh in a statement early today.

"I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services, made in providing assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations," Cohen said.

Said Beckenbaugh declined comment to reporters, other than to say, "I'm as famous as I want to be."

Dates for training campsregular-season starts have not yet been announced. And Fehr, standing with Bettman, probably echoed the sentiments of many with his closing statement to reporters.

"Hopefully, in a very few days, fans can get back to watching people who are skating and not the two of us," he said.

Robin Lopez continues to contribute as 'great example,' mentor for young Bulls

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USA TODAY

Robin Lopez continues to contribute as 'great example,' mentor for young Bulls

Robin Lopez hasn’t exactly had a season to remember in Year 3 with the Bulls. The longest tenured player on the rebuilding Bulls, Lopez has seen his starting spot relinquished during the preseason, he’s been a healthy scratch in half of the team’s 14 games and has struggled in the extended minutes he’s seen this past week.

But Lopez, ever the professional and positive presence in the locker room – with his framed Britney Spears picture still in view – is still having an impact. Specifically, the mentoring he’s given rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is one of the reasons the Bulls’ seventh overall pick has been able to succeed so early in his NBA career.

“Robin’s great for this young group of guys. He’s played already a couple different roles,” Fred Hoiberg said. “And any time you can show the guys the right way to approach that, be professional about it and still be a mentor throughout the tough times, it’s a great example. He’s a great role model for our young players.

“He’s really taken Wendell under his wing. You look at what Cris and Bobby did in their first couple years in the league. He had those same impact on those guys.”

When Lopez arrived in Chicago via the Derrick Rose trade, the Bulls were still competing. He started 81 games in 2016-17, averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 28.0 minutes, the most he had played since his first season in Portland.

But Lopez became a victim of the Bulls tank last season, starting 64 games but sitting 18 of the final 26 contests. Lopez only played in eight of those games as a result of the NBA stepping in and asking the Bulls to play their veterans – Lopez and Justin Holiday – more. Lopez averaged just 16.9 minutes in those games.

Lopez began the year as the starter but Carter quickly established himself as the foundation of the defense while also showing off an offensive skill set that complemented the backcourt.

Through the demotion and healthy scratches Lopez has taken on a mentor role, not dissimilar to the one fellow veterans took on for him in his early seasons as a pro in New Orleans.

“I’ve been really fortunate in the league,” Lopez said. “I’ve had a lot of great veterans myself, but even if I hadn’t I have a great joy playing with these guys, being around these guys. We have a great group of guys, a great group of teammates. I’d be a huge jackass if I weren’t to do that, you know?’’

Since rejoining the rotation in New York, Lopez has averaged a paltry 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.2 minutes. He has blocked five shots, including a pivotal one in the final seconds of regulation against the Knicks. He’s been an abled body off the bench to spell Carter – or eat minutes if the rookie is in foul trouble – or a more viable option for Felicio, who has struggled in his own right.

The on-court production is what it is, but Lopez’s teaching role has mattered more to a Bulls team sitting at 4-9 while they await the return of four rotation players.

“Coming out of a timeout or when guys come over, whether we’re going through a good stretch or a bad one, he’s always the first one to go up to Wendell and talk to him about things that he sees on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “He just has such a great feel for doing the right thing out there.”

It’s a role he’ll play for as long as he’s with the Bulls. When Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis return the Bulls’ frontcourt minutes will be swallowed up, and odds are the Bulls will want to continue trying out Felicio based solely on the money the Bulls owe him the next two-plus seasons. Lopez, a free agent at season’s end, likely hasn’t done enough to fetch anything considerable in a trade and doesn’t offer much as an expiring contract.

But that won’t stop him from continuing to compete, push the younger players in practice and attempt to create a winning culture in Chicago.

"Everybody here, we’re competitive guys,” he said. “We want that to be us. Wherever I am I want us to be winning, I’m a competitive player. You see me on the floor getting technicals and generally shouting at the refs, but occasionally other people too. I’m a competitive guy. I want to be winning wherever I am.’’

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

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Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and placed forward Marcus Kruger (left leg) on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 9, the team announced Tuesday.

Forsling, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, was sent to Rockford on Oct. 22 perhaps more-so as a conditioning stint and appeared in five games. He missed four contests with a groin injury, but is coming off a two-assist game against the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

Forsling had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games with the Blackhawks last season before getting assigned to the IceHogs for the remainder of the campaign, where he recorded five points (two goals, three assists) in 18 regular-season games and five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 postseason contests.

The Blackhawks' roster currently sits at 23 players, so it appears they will carry eight defensemen for now despite the team's reluctance to do so again this season after it backfired a year ago. Brandon Davidson (right leg injury) did not practice on Tuesday, which could be the reason for bringing up Forsling.

But his call-up certainly comes at a desperate time for the Blackhawks, who have lost eight in a row (0-6-2) and could use all the help they can get on the back end.

In other positive news, Connor Murphy skated in full gear for the first time in months as he continues to recover from a back injury. He's still a ways away from practicing, but this was the next step in his recovery process.