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.

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Boston goalie Tuuka Rask has been hard to beat this season and was at his best against Buffalo again.

"You start thinking, `how are we going to get one by this guy,'" Sabres coach Dan Bylsma wondered aloud Saturday.

Rask nearly shut out the Sabres for the second time in a month, keeping them off the scoresheet for 2 1/2 periods and making 17 of his career-high 35 saves in the third to help the Bruins hold on for a 2-1 win.

"Every team likes to have these kind of goaltenders and a lot of teams do," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're just fortunate enough that he's been one of those guys that, whenever you slip a little bit, or lose a little bit of momentum, or you're having a slow start, or a tough night, those guys step up and help you win some hockey games."

Over his last 11 starts, beginning with his 4-0 shutout over Buffalo on Nov. 7, Rask is 7-3-1 with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.

"I feel good," Rask said. "I'm seeing the puck well. Guys are doing a great job keeping them on the outside and clearing the rebounds for the most part, so that helps out."

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their last four.

"We're getting better as a team, we're getting points and climbing up the standings," said Krejci, who has 10 points in his last 12 games. "Hopefully we can keep it up."

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

"First two periods, we had a tough time generating some offensive chances," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "They kind of just stayed on top."

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:44 of the third when he knocked in the rebound of David Pastrnak's missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and flip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Julien said Beleskey will be evaluated when the team returns to Boston. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Buffalo had just three shots on goal in the first period.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.