Haggerty: Keep the deal-makers, get rid of everybody else

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Haggerty: Keep the deal-makers, get rid of everybody else

The mood was both hopeful and wary in the dressing room after the local NHL players skated at a Boston rink on Thursday morning.

Once again Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and Tuukka Rask were there from the Bruins organization, and they were joined by Jay Pandalfo, Keith Yandle, Ryan Whitney and Brandon Yip among other skaters.

But all the NHL group wanted to know following the skate was just how close the NHL and NHLPA had moved after the second marathon negotiating session at the Westin Hotel in New York City. Clearly the two parties have inched closer together with the NHL bumping up the make whole money to 300 million and seeking a 10-year CBA while also relenting to previous player contract rules for free agency (27 years old and seven years of service) and arbitration.

Perhaps unsurprisingly many of the players didnt have a big issue with the 10-year commitment because it guarantees labor peace.

But the two sides are still at odds over the five-year term limits for contracts or seven years if a player signs with their current team and has been in that organization for at least four years and the 5 percent variance limit on year-to-year earnings within the contract. Perhaps even bumping it up to the six-year limit with potential eight year deals for players re-signing with their own would be enough to close the deal.

The players pension plan has also now entered the discussion where it wasnt even a talking point in previous discussions.

With all of that in mind the general sense from the players on Thursday was they better not mess this up. Hockey players are getting antsy with starting dates being thrown around and with the financial gap now under 100 million over the course of a long-term deal.

But they also know theyve previously thought these negotiations had turned the corner, and were sorely disappointed.

So theyre not making the same mistake this time.

Ill believe the season is starting when I see it, said one player.

Pandalfo joked that he needs to know if theres going to be a season or not, so the 37-year-old can decide whether hes going to retire or keep playing.

Lucic was hopeful after hearing some of the fine details, but also concerned after hearing that tempers had flared for both Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs during the late night session. The militant Miller lost his cool during the negotiating session and Jacobs reportedly threatened to leave the table thereby ending the discussion.

The Bruins owner was reportedly talked into remaining at the table by his fellow owners in the negotiation session, and thats nothing but good news. But the rancor thats built up on both sides needs to disappear, and most of the parties involved seem to understand that.

We all have to remember not to bring emotion into it, and to simply treat it like a business negotiation. Thats what the owners are going to do, and were best served doing the same thing, said Lucic. Were definitely more encouraged and theres more optimism. They seem headed in the right direction.

But until a deal is done you have to be a little bit cautious. Its definitely a positive thing that it seems to be moving in the right direction. The anxiousness and the excitement are definitely there. Its tough to stay cautious because youre thinking about the what if questions if we do start the season. But you cant get too far ahead because weve already been let down in that sense.

The latest wrinkle: both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr will be back involved in the process, and the players union has once again requested that federal mediators get involved in the discussion. Perhaps that could be a good thing now that the two sides have inched closer together, but the mediation discussion wont be broached until after both sides hold their Thursday afternoon meeting.

Perhaps they will find some sort of breakthrough common ground, and the NHL will be able to carry through with a plan to finalize a new CBA by the end of this week. The alternative should be frightening enough to anybody that loves the NHL or worships the game of hockey.

If things fall apart now the clock will truly start ticking loudly on cancelling the entire NHL season, more games will certainly be cancelled by the end of the week and the players will potentially risk losing moderate owners like Tampa Bays Jeff Vinik, Winnipegs Mark Chipman and Pittsburghs Ron Burkle.

That cant happen.

So hows this for a suggestion? Keep the hard-line, militant personalities on both sides out of the negotiating room. Keep Bettman and Fehr who have built tremendous ill will with the opposing group during these negotiations away from the talks until both sides have agreed in principle on every major topic. Theyre polarizing figures, and it seems that the mission of each side is to keep the others lead executive from getting any credit when a deal is completed. Keep the moderates together speaking until the two sides have finalized a deal and do it quickly as key voices on both sides start leaving New York City while a CBA crawls to completion.

Burkle reportedly said to those close to him hes not leaving New York City until hes got a CBA in place that saves the NHL season for fellow owners, the players, the fans and anybody else that has a stake in hockey.

Those are the kinds of personalities that are going to get this deal done. They need to fully take over the process before others can ruin it with the same old dysfunctional NHL attitude, or with a fit of selfish pique that will force everyone to walk away.

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”