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Knuble says NHL waiting to make its best offer

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Knuble says NHL waiting to make its best offer

On Tuesday night NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear where the negotiations between the league and its players stood when he told Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal, “We’re done making proposals. We’ll see what they want to do.”

Former Capitals veteran Mike Knuble isn’t buying it. And he’s pretty sure NHLPA executive director Don Fehr and his special counsel and brother Steve Fehr aren’t going to be bullied into crafting a new proposal.

“It’s not a ping-pong game,” Knuble told CSNWashington.com. “We’re not going to make an offer because someone said it’s our turn.

“I’m sure Don and Steve will have their internal meetings and figure out which direction they want to go, but they’re not bowing to any sort of pressure from Bill or Gary [Bettman]. They’re not going to make a move that will hurt us just for the sake of making one.”

Knuble believes the NHL has a date circled on its negotiating calendar – a date in which a shortened regular season can be salvaged – and when it arrives another offer will be presented.

“I think sometime in December,” he said. “I just think that when the NHL wants to be serious about talking we’ll get a deal done. But I don’t think they’re at that point yet.

“I believe they still feel their time line isn’t there yet. When it will be I think we’ll all know it and I think things will happen pretty quickly when they get to their time line.”

Knuble, 40, said he believes today’s NHL players are just as adamant about getting a fair deal as they were in 2004-05 when an entire season was lost. In addition to forfeiting a year of income in that lockout players accepted a 24 percent rollback on their 2005-06 salaries.

“It’s like tearing off a Band-Aid,” Knuble said. “It was a slap in the face taking 24 percent right off the top of everybody’s salary. I think a lot of players who were involved in '04 vowed that would never happen again. We would never go through that again.”

Today, the players’ rallying cry is protecting the contracts they thought were signed in good faith. Over the summer dozens of high-profile players signed lucrative deals, none more lucrative than Sidney Crosby’s 12-year, $104.4 million extension with the Penguins and the 13-year, $98 million free-agent contracts signed by Minnesota’s Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

“Were those contracts signed in good faith or were they signed with the idea they were getting a discount?” Knuble said. “I don’t know. I think that’s why players are frustrated.

“All our All-Stars are signed to multi-year deals and those high-profile guys aren’t going to take that lightly, to be stripped like that again. It happened once, but it’s not going to happen again and guys are pretty adamant about that. Guys know it’s going to go to 50-50, but how do you want to get there?”

In an attempt to get to a 50-50 split in revenues, the NHL has proposed a “make whole” provision in which $211 million in player salaries would be paid in deferred payments over two years.

The players want their current contracts paid in full and not in deferred payments.

Knuble said he believes the NHL is weeks away from its best offer and is following a path similar to the one taken by the NBA last season, when the league and union settled on Thanksgiving and began a 66-game season on Christmas day.

“Everybody remembers LeBron James and the Miami Heat won,” Knuble said. “That’s all they remember about last year and I think the NHL would love to see that.”

Knuble said he thinks a shortened season would need to consist of at least 55 games to legitimize the grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He also believes some small-market teams are perfectly content losing the first two months of the regular season, which are traditionally the slowest and least attended of the NHL season.

He also believes there will be hockey this winter.

“I do, just because I’m optimistic,” he said. “When we lost the [2004-05] season we all never thought that would happen. We didn’t think that was in the realm of possibility, but they showed it is.

“Every day that goes by I guess the window closes a little bit, but I don’t think we’re at crunch time yet. I think that’s another month away.”

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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