Haggerty: NHL owners signed new deals banking on salary reductions

753358.jpg

Haggerty: NHL owners signed new deals banking on salary reductions

On its face the Bruins position headed into the NHL lockout seems prudent, but also a little preposterous given the numbers and the players involved.

Bruins principal owner Jeremy Jacobs is the President of the Board of Governors and one of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmans staunchest allies. Jacobs was also reportedly the owner that called for his fellow NHL owners to lock out the players during a unanimous vote last week in New York City. So it would seem he should be the owner pushing for fiscal prudence with player salaries and a conservative approach headed into the NHLs nuclear winter.

Instead the Jacobs family green-lit 70.5 million in contract extension money for Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic in the final week leading into the work stoppage. It was part of the NHL owners wildly spending 199 million in the final two days leading into Sundays opening day of the lockout, acting like crazed brides-to-be in a wedding gown clearance sale.

The three-year, 18 million for Lucic was seen as particularly generous around the league despite him being best young power forward in the game and on the upward trend toward being an All-Star player in his prime.

The commitment of 70.5 million was the final chapter in a summer of wild spending by the same NHL owners that are now crying poor-mouth at the CBA negotiating table. Minnesota owner Craig Leipold is the prime example of that phenomenon signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to the two richest deals of the summer just weeks after publicly complaining that he pays too much in player payroll.

But Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli said he didnt have any issues selling his strategy to ownership while they were lining all their lockout ducks in a row.

Chiarelli said some of the impact is lessened because the future dollars wont come into play until the 2013-14 season, and thats at least partially true on the three extensions signed with an eye toward the future.

But read on for another reasonable explanation as to why the Bruins spent generously before they put a padlock on the season.

Were talking about future years and were talking about core players," Chiarelli said. "You have to remember that we didnt bring anyone in here, we didnt bring anyone in here in the summer. Weve got a sizable chunk of inactive money with Marc Savard and Tim Thomas. So these numbers are big and were trying to keep our players -- specifically our forwards -- in clusters so that theres an element of equity to it. There is a lot of planning, but there is an element of caution.

But were talking about future years here and core players. So, we think weve managed it with some semblance of fiscal responsibility. Weve got a pretty good track record so far. Part of managing a team is being fiscally responsible and making the right decisions so were just trying to continue to understand and respect that. Obviously were going to be in a new system and knowing that there has to be elements where you can shed salary and you have to have some flexibility. The business side of it is important -- we dont ignore it and we obviously have to abide by any rules that they give us -- but part of our job is to project on the players and project on player costs. Thats just an everyday task.

So how could the Bruins spend freely to lock up their young core of players while the NHL Brotherhood of owners is banging the drum that the league is spending way too much on player salary? Because the Bruins ownership knows exactly what the NHL game plan is for collective bargaining negotiations. They're looking at a "new system" in which Bettman is determined to get another salary rollback along with something closer to a 5050 split in hockey related revenue.

So it might have been much easier to approve the last batch of contracts when the Bruins are banking on another 10-20 percent rollback on all salaries signed prior to the lockout deadline. The Bruins were ill-prepared for the 24 percent salary rollback that Harry Sinden and Mike OConnell never saw coming out of the last lockout, and this time it would appear theyre banking on another rollback.

The players have been adamant that escrow and salary rollbacks are a non-starter in negotiations, but that seems to be one of the first orders of business for the NHL with each CBA proposal.

Things would look a little different and perhaps a little more club-friendly in the eyes of those signing the checks if the Bruins are paying out only 80 percent of the 70.5 million doled out to Marchand, Seguin and Lucic. That would explain the rush to finish off as many deals as possible up to the deadline, but also paints the picture of NHL owners willing to sign contracts they have no intention of fully living up to.

Its that kind of scurrilous activity behind the scenes that has harbored mistrust between the players and ownership over the years, and now has the NHL facing a winter of locked out hockey games.

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.