Haggerty: Where does the NHL go from here?

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Haggerty: Where does the NHL go from here?

Everybody had to know Gary Bettman and Jeremy Jacobs werent going to burst out into cartwheels no matter how good the offer was from the NHLPA Wednesday.
Spontaneous song or hilarious Montgomery BurnsSmithers comedy act skits? Possibly.
But cartwheels? No way and no how.
The players made significant movement toward the NHL with a six-page offer that went away from a set monetary figure for next seasons revenue, and instead aimed toward the leagues request of a set percentage of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) along with a raise in make whole money.
"There was movement from the players association on some issues, which was appreciated," said Bettman. "There was some movement by us. Hopefully there will be some momentum from todays session that we can build off of."
So the NHL should have been satisfied with the movement, but instead they acted like one of the NHLPA contingent clogged up their toilets during the Wednesday visit to the league offices.
The NHL had previously offered 211 million in make whole deferment money to guarantee the player contracts already signed, and the NHLPA asked for an additional 182 million to that kitty over the course of the CBAs first four years.
In essence you could say the two sides sit 182 million apart along with a bevy of player contract rights they also still dont see eye-to-eye on. To put the 182 million into perspective: it amounts to little more than a million dollars per team, per year over the course of a five-year contract.
Thats chump change in the world of professional sports. It also makes it all the more insulting to the fans that the league simply rejected the players proposal rather than making an effort to work off the numbers.
Unsurprisingly, the players moved toward the league on a number of fronts, and the NHL did almost nothing to meet the players in the spacious middle. Instead the NHL pushed entry level contracts back to the three years as they existed in the previous CBA from a two-year proposal. In their infinite wisdom, the NHL also went to the extent of pushing the players arbitration eligibility back one season.
In essence, the NHLPA gave in to the players on some important areas that put the two parties within shouting distance of each other. But it didnt matter to an almighty Board of Governors thats expected to whack all regular season games until Dec. 15 and the NHL All-Star game by the end of this week. Hows that for a nice holiday surprise to the businesses of Columbus, Ohio that expected a nice business boom at the end of January?
Maybe the Blue Jackets' owners should have checked the fine print on this years NHL blueprint for the CBA.
So where do the NHL and NHLPA go from here with Fehr at his bemused breaking point on Wednesday and Bettman overflowing with smugness as he conversed with an angry Flyers fan during his post-meeting press conference?  
Both sides are expected to hold discussions on Friday about where to go from here, and one would hope that means a counter-offer from the NHL bringing them closer together. Instead, the league continues to sound the alarm that theyve already released their best offer, and that circumstances will only get worse for the players as the NHL hemorrhages 18-20 million per day. Its also not helping that NHL sponsors like Kraft and Molson are either asking for refunds, or simply walking away to spend their money elsewhere.
The New York Post is reporting the NHL Board of Governors will sit down for a Dec. 5 meeting, and its difficult to glean whether thats a positive or negative development for the 2012-13 season.
The NHLPA has its share of frustration as well. They finally had their first union member go broken arrow when defenseman Roman Hamrlik angrily mentioned getting rid of Fehr if the season is cancelled. Hamrliks lockout rant doesnt speak for many players, but it was only a matter of time before one of the voices struck out against the rest of the players singing in harmony.
The mention of potentially decertifying the union was first brought up in a conference call earlier this week, and could become a possibility if the NHLPA gets desperate for leverage. The NBA and their players union were going through a similar impasse last season when the basketball players got serious about breaking up their union, and lo and behold the NBA regular season began a few weeks later.
The decertification process allows the players to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league and even sue for damages in some instances, so its a tangled web the NHL probably doesnt want to delve into too deeply. But it might also give the NHLPA a chance to crumble the leagues salary cap structure once decertification takes place. That kind of action would mean a certifiable World War III with NHL owners that have built their business model around the salary cap.
But it would also mean players have some leverage they dont currently enjoy as Bettman lightly pats them on the head after watching the NHLPA stretch toward the league in negotiations. As stated previously at this address, the players already know theyre going to lose this head-to-head battle with the NHL. Theyre already feeling the urgency to return to work before the game they loved is wrecked beyond belief by the ugly business side of the league.
Unfortunately, the NHL appears to have a date in mind when theyd like to return, and that date will mean a couple of things have happened: the league can still play a maximum number of games played in the 60 range combined with five or more paycheck cycles missed that out-of-work players will never see again.
In the end, the owners will have lopped off the least profitable months of the season while still getting things into gear when the NHL historically tends to take off around Christmas.
Thats the theory, anyway.
Bettmans abhorrence for the NHLPAs gamesmanship and the leagues unwashed arrogance toward the players could always push the entire league over the cliff, and force them to miss another season.
But that moment is still more than a month away, and theyd have to be foolish enough to blow through deadlines on Dec. 15 and January 1. It could still happen, but its difficult to see the NHL unable to field some manner of shortened regular season given the middle ground both sides are dealing with.
Thats a little NHL silver lining on a day that turned out much worse than most had hoped or anticipated it would. At least we have that to be thankful for.

Report: Red Sox acquire Chris Sale

Report: Red Sox acquire Chris Sale

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Red Sox -- who came away with the top starting pitcher (David Price) and top reliever (Craig Kimbrel) last offseason -- apparently have done it again.

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Sox have acquired White Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale for four prospects. Two have been identified (infielder Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech) and two are as-yet unnamed:

More to come . . . 

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

BRIGHTON, Mass -- The Bruins lost Matt Beleskey for six weeks to a knee injury this week, and now they’re hoping to get another winger back now that 22-year-old Frank Vatrano has rejoined the Bruins at practice.

Vatrano was wearing a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, but his presence along with the other players at the team skate means that he’s moving closer toward a return to the B’s lineup. While initial timetables for his recovery from foot surgery had him in the early January range for returning to the Bruins lineup, it appears that he might be at least a couple of weeks ahead of that initial expectation.

Either way Vatrano is happy to be back on the ice with his teammates after the torn ligaments in his foot wiped out his training camp and the first two plus months of the regular season for him.

“It was a big step for me today. It was nice to be out there with the guys for the first time,” said Vatrano, who scored a combined 44 goals last season for Providence and Boston in a breakout season with the B’s organization. “I’ve gone through the rehab and done everything I need to do to get back playing, so now the next step is getting back on the ice with the guys. I felt great, so now it’s just waiting to hear the news when I start playing again.”

While Vatrano is still a young, relatively inexperienced player with just one full year of pro hockey under his belt, the sense from the Bruins is that he’s going to help a team that’s currently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense. Claude Julien was encouraged by seeing him out there in the red, no-contact jersey that his teammates were chirping him about, and said that his level play at last spring’s world championships should give him confidence when he jumps back into a big role with the Black and Gold.

“It’s a step in the right direction for Frank. That’s the best way for him to get to the pace of our game because it’s going to take a while when you’ve been out that long,” said Vatrano. “I think his experience at world championships last year is a real blessing in disguise because he gained a lot of confidence there. I think that’s going to help him a lot more than had he not gone.

“He played against a lot of elite players last year, and he fared really well. I think he’ll be coming in now with some confidence, and we just have to sure coming in that we give him every opportunity to succeed by using him properly, and giving him a chance to find his game.”

That certainly sounds like the Bruins are preparing for a top-6 role and maybe some power play time once the young, sharp-shooting Vatrano is back up to full speed. That should be fun to watch once he’s ready to play, and ready to again unleash that shot and release that rivals anybody else for tops on the Bruins roster.