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Brouwer says NHL players getting bullied by owners


Brouwer says NHL players getting bullied by owners

The Winter Classic has been flushed down the toilet and formal negotiations have been few and far between.

At a time when the NHL could take advantage of its growing popularity it has taken a major step backward with a lockout that is dangerously close to wiping out a full season for the second time in eight years.

On Saturday, caught up with Capitals right wing and assistant player representative Troy Brouwer to ask his opinions on the lockout.

[It should be noted that hours after this phone interview it was reported that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr had scheduled a private meeting at an undisclosed location late Saturday afternoon].

What was your initial reaction when you heard [Friday] the NHL had canceled the Winter Classic

Troy Brouwer: Not surprised. We’ve known for a long time this was one of the ways the owners would try to put all the pressure on the players. It’s understandable. You have to promote the game and make sure the sponsors are involved in the game. The time line of it? We still feel they called it off a little bit early. But that’s their decision and it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to the players.

By canceling the Classic the league avoided making the $250,000 payment to the University of Michigan, but do you also think it was a way to put pressure on the players to come to the negotiating table?

I don’t think so because he players have been trying to talk for at least a week now. We’ve had numerous phone calls throughout saying we’re ready to talk whenever they are, but they’re not ready to talk and you can’t negotiate with someone who’s not willing to come to the table and talk. We’re at a standstill and it’s because the owners in the league don’t want to meet right now.

It sounds as though the owners are willing to discuss their latest proposal as long as it’s on their terms.

That’s what happens when you have a bully. Someone’s going to take their ball and go home if they don’t like the way you’re playing. Right now there’s not much we can do except to continue to express we’re willing to talk about anything at any time. Don [Fehr] has been adamant about making that public and making it clear that it doesn’t matter if it’s about pension or health or safety or core economics, we’re ready and able to have a discussion.

Did you participate in the NHLPA conference call Thursday night?

I’m the Caps assistant player rep so I’m on all the conference calls. Also it’s my future and my family’s future so I want to be as informed as possible and know what’s going on so that when there is a decision to be made I can make an informed one.

What was the tone of that call? I understand the players had a lot of questions.

There were. A lot of it was where do we go from here? The biggest answer Don could give us was, ‘Well, we don’t go anywhere until the owners are willing to talk.’ Right now it kind of sucks sitting back and waiting but at the same time we still have the same stance we had in the summertime. We want to make sure there’s going to be a fair deal for both sides because we want this to be a very profitable industry going forward. But if you’re dealing with guys more worried about themselves than with the general outcome of the league it’s tough to try and strike a deal with people like that.

Since it’s the owners who are locking you out, do you think the owners are willing to sacrifice a whole season?

I don’t know. As of right now it’s looking kind of clear on that. But there’s got to be a point where it becomes counter productive for both sides. We’re trying not to get to that point and making sure that there is hockey this season. It all stems back to having open lines of communication. I don’t expect everything to get worked out all at once But as long as they’re continuing to work on the small things, when the core economics do get figured out, everything else will be in place so that we can start a season up as soon as an agreement is made.

Several deadlines have passed and I guess many of us thought the Winter Classic was the biggest. Now that it’s gone do you think there will be a season?

I’m optimistic. I want to play. I know every other player I’ve talked to wants to reach a fair deal so that going forward it’s good for both sides. Everyone wants to eventually, hopefully, have a season this year and I guess that will be determined in the next couple months.

There are some players making money overseas and others like you making no money at all. Do you feel the players are willing to make a stand that lasts all season?

I think that’s evident in our stance so far. We’ve given up a lot of concessions and that’s what the owners are continuing to ask from us. They want money back. They want big contract restrictions going forward. Right now there’s not a ton in it for the players, so we need to see some give on the owners’ side as far something they’re willing to give up. Until then I don’t see anything happening right now.

Players always say this is a business but it can also get personal. Does going through a labor war like this put a strain on a player’s relationship with an owner? Ted Leonsis sat in on the last negotiating session.

I understand  he’s running a business and he’s trying to make money for himself, but he has to understand the players are also trying to do the same thing. We want to play hockey and fortunately for us we get paid very well to play hockey Going forward you can’t really take too hard feelings but at the same time you can’t ignore what’s happening around you and what’s happening to your livelihood. I guess that will be seen in the future, when and if a deal gets done.      



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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals


John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.


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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson


Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.