Haggerty: NHL owners signed new deals banking on salary reductions

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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.

Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

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Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

BOSTON -- The Bruins locked up a piece to a blue line that was godawful last season in announcing they’d signed Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract.

They also retained one of their own young restricted free agents, center Seth Griffith, by reaching agreement on a one-year, two-way deal with an NHL value of $625,000 per season.

Miller, 28, played in a career-high 71 games last season -- his third with the Bruins -- and established career highs in goals (5), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He also posted the second-best plus/minus rating on the team (plus-15) and generally seemed to be playing his best hockey down the stretch.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Miller was also forced into playing 19:04 of ice time per night while oftentimes serving as a top-pair D-man alongside Zdeno Chara. That resulted in a high number of mistakes and turnovers at critical times against the opposition’s best offensive players.

The rugged, hardnosed Miller obviously isn’t going to be judged solely by the numbers. He's also evaluated by the big hits, blocked shots and air of intimidation in the defensive zone. That said, a four-year contract is a bit of a head-scratcher, given that Miller wasn’t expected to command that kind of deal as an unrestricted free agent on the open market.

That four-year deal, which carries a yearly cap hit of $2.5 million, would also seem to hint at the impending exodus of Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg, or both, given the number of limited stay-at-home defensemen on the roster now making decent NHL money.  

The bottom line: Miller’s contract will be a good one if he can settle into a steady, top-four role. But it will be another overpay if he winds up being the bottom-pairing D-man many see him as at the NHL level.

Griffith had 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points in 57 games for the Providence Bruins last season, and also had an assist in four games for Boston. He'll get another chance this year to compete for one of the winger jobs at the NHL level with plenty of competition.

Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

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Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while thoroughly enjoying “Chewbacca Mom.”

*Good piece on Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk, and his solid performance during Memorial Cup play.

*A couple of my friends over at NHL.com have attempted to put together a World Cup of Hockey roster for North America.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance on Jumbo Joe Thornton, and what those who know him best say about him.

*Speaking of the Sharks/Blues conference finals, Vladimir Tarasenko is scoreless through the first five games of the series. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

*Actor Will Arnett proves that nobody is better at predicting the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff games than him.

*Longtime Director of Player Personnel Scott Luce is out with the Florida Panthers as their restructuring continues in this spring and summer.

*Gustav Nyquist is disappointing with his scoring numbers from last season, and is looking for a bump up next year.

*For something completely different: Chewbacca Mom visited with James Corden on late night television, and the results were both funny and kind of heartwarming.