Entry level contracts shouldn't be holding CBA talks up

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Entry level contracts shouldn't be holding CBA talks up

While the NHL and NHLPA are engaged in an epic game of shut up thats lasted almost a week, heres an interesting wrinkle on one of the player contract rights thats suddenly become a big bone of contention: Some NHL executives are actually surprised the players association hasnt jumped all over the two-year entry level as something that could become a potential boon to young NHL players.

Its been widely assumed that dropping the majority of entry-level contracts from three years to two years in the next CBA would wrangle down the skyrocketing second contracts NHL superstars like Taylor Hall (seven years and 42 million) and Tyler Seguin (six years and 34.5 million) have secured at precocious young ages.

Both forwards signed their pimped out second contracts just prior to the Sept. 15 work stoppage, and it was seen as both players getting deals done that might well become extinct in the brave new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But there are some NHL minds that think the two year entry level idea is something that serves the players as much if not more than it does the league.

I was actually surprised to see that one in the leagues proposal, and surprised it hasnt been received more favorably, said one league source. Think about it: the money teams are going to save by lopping off the third year in the entry level contracts isnt going to amount to a considerable sum. Most of those entry-level deals are for short money.

But for players like Seguin or Hall its going to get them to bigger dollar numbers more quickly. Rather than waiting for their fourth year in the league to really cash in, theyll be doing it a year earlier provided theyve shown they can play in the first two years.

Since both Hall and Seguin and Jeff Skinner to name a third signed their deals before their third NHL season, the argument that two seasons isnt enough time for players to establish lofty dollar values doesnt seem to hold water. Some NHL players dont develop until the third year of their entry-level deal, but those select skaters are actually in the minority when looking at big RFA contract extensions over the last few years.

Above and beyond the NHLs bright lights getting paid even earlier in their careers, a two-year entry level system would also make North America more attractive to European players looking to dip their toe in the waters. The Bruins had held the rights to Swedish import Carl Soderberg since trading Hannu Toivonens rights to the St. Louis Blues in 2007, but the enigmatic Swede has resisted all invitations for an NHL tryout.

Who knows?

Perhaps a smaller commitment of two years rather than three would entice some of the more sheepish foreign hockey imports like Soderberg that are currently shying away from North America.

Its certainly much more conducive to attracting players from Europe and Russia than switching to a five-year entry level contract that would tether them down for a half-decade.

Dropping to a two-year entry level system under the proposed player contract rights being offered by the NHL could result in a few more holdouts given the lessening of arbitration rights and a potential unrestricted free agent finish line pushed to 28 years old. Thats a potential downside when players have no other recourse, but the NHL owners will always pay money to protect the best, young, exciting talent on their respective teams. Players will also have the threat of offer sheets in the restricted free agency despite the fact many NHL GMs seem deathly allergic to the mere thought of them.

Even if the NHL CBA crafters believe that a two-year entry level system will bring back the traditionally modest second contracts to the NHL, the high number of players achieving stardom at 18 or 19 years old completely flies in the face of that theory.

It will be interesting to see how things play out, but dont be surprised if the NHLPA is remarkably compliant on the two-year entry level deal portion over the player contract rights theyre currently talking about.

Or not talking about as the case may be.

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

FOXBORO -- There's a clock on the wall in the weight room at Tom Brady's house.

When the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last January, Brady's father told me his son set the clock to count away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Super Bowl 51. That clock has just 13 days left on it now. It won't require a sad resetting this week.

Brady won't be around to see it hit zeroes. He'll be in Texas playing in his record seventh Super Bowl. As planned.

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

HERE THEY COME, ROGER

The Patriots are the last team the NFL apparatus wanted to see in Houston and now the boogeyman's at their door, proving that living well is the best revenge.

Nowhere to run to, Roger. Nowhere to hide. The rules apply to everyone and there's a rule that we all learn sooner or later is very true. What goes around comes around. We all have it coming, kid.

We imagine Brady is clearing his throat for the delicious last laugh, but he's said it a hundred different ways in the past four months: Vengeance and vindication aren't driving him. That's wasted energy. Poison.

He's focused on what's immediately in front of him while reminding himself time's fleeting. The best way for him to help his team during his four-game exile in September was to work out relentlessly, which he did so that when he returned he was as good as he's ever been.

And in his absence, his team understood the best way to honor him while he was gone was to take care of business. Which they did beginning September 12 in Arizona when, instead of playing rudderless football without their on-field leader, they began a 3-1 run with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

"Yeah, well we never dwell on that," Bill Belichick began when I asked him Sunday night about the obstacles the team's had in front of it beginning in September and through the rest of the season. "We take the hand that we're dealt and play the cards . . .

"You referenced the beginning of the year, but it's been true in every game, really," Belichick added. "It's a credit to those guys. It's a credit to the depth on our team and the way that those guys prepare. They work hard. They don't know if they're going to get an opportunity or not and then when it finally comes and they do get it, they're usually ready to take advantage of it and help the team win. That's why we're where we are. We have a special team, a special group of guys that really work hard. They deserve the success that they've had. I mean, it's hard to win 16 games in this league. You've got to give a lot of credit to the players and the job they've done all year week after week. It's tough, but they come in and grind it out. They sit in these seats for hours, and hours, and hours, and prepare, and prepare, and go out there and lay it on the line every week. Again, it's a good group of men."

Beginning in the offseason with the trade of Chandler Jones to the start of the season with the Brady suspension to the stunning trade of Jamie Collins, the loss of Rob Gronkowski and a defense that was scoffed at on a weekly basis, the Patriots have weathered all of it to get to this point.

"One More" is the marketing slogan this team's had affixed to it.

"Bend Don't Break" is much more apt. Because they never did.

It's a phrase that's been framed as a slight by when used to describe the New England defense this season but safety Duron Harmon had a different interpretation.

"I don't know. I kind of like it," he said. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it."

Harmon and Patrick Chung hauled down Steelers tight end Jesse James inches short of a touchdown just before halftime. The Patriots defense held after that, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a deflating field goal. Instead of a 17-13 lead at halftime, the Pats led 17-9.

"Right then and there, a lot of people are thinking that's seven points, but that's a four-point turnover basically," said Harmon. "Just hold them to three and that really helped us with the momentum going into [halftime]."

When one considers all the collateral damage of Deflategate and the fortunes of the antagonists and protagonists since, it's . . . well, it's telling.

The Colts canned tattletale GM Ryan Grigson on Saturday and are in disarray. The Ravens missed the playoffs again. Owners who fingerwagged and wanted to see the Patriots brought to heel like John Mara, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson have teams that were either bounced from the playoffs or didn't even make them.

And the Patriots are headed to Houston anyway. Despite all their best efforts.

"I think it's a great story, but I think right now our focus is got to go out to Houston in a couple of weeks and try to win it," said Devin McCourty when asked about the revenge angle. "I think that makes the story even better."