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.

Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

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Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

BRIGHTON – It only amounts to lip service coming in the first few days the Bruins players are simply getting together for informal captain’s practices, but it’s pretty clear the fire is burning brightly after missing the playoffs two years in a row.

For a group that still includes some players that made the playoffs seven seasons in a row, made it to the Cup Finals twice and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011, it feels like that sting of pride is very close to the surface.

Torey Krug wouldn’t even entertain discussion of last season when asked about it following Monday’s skating session at the new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility. David Krejci said he’s officially done talking about winning the Cup five long years ago. Now, it’s about righting the ship for the Bruins, and getting things back moving in a positive, forward progression after moving backwards and sideways over the last two years.

As always, the playmaking Krejci gives a straight, honest take about where the team is on the down side of their Cup years.

“I feel like we’re back to where we started 10 years ago, you know? The teams didn’t make the playoffs, and now we kind of have some new guys. It’s still a good mix with some experienced guys,” said Krejci. “But the hunger, it’s there again. Obviously we haven’t been in the playoffs for a couple of years. It’s exciting times.

“If you go back to 2011 and then to 2013, we were in the Final. But we knew that we had already won two years before. We did try, but you always knew in the back of your mind that you’d already won the Cup. Now, it’s like the Cup is out of the window and that was a long time ago. I’m going to talk about the Cup when I retire, so now we’re all hungry again. We missed the playoffs two years in a row, and it’s a new excitement again. I just can’t wait to get back into it.”

Krejci’s first full season in the NHL was actually the year that the B’s made it back into the postseason in 2007-08, but he was close enough to the organization to see what it was like at the 2006 training camp when a great deal was in flux for the Black and Gold.

It’s not unlike the big changes that the Bruins have seen in the past two years with the hopes that there will start being a payoff in the near future.

It’s exciting for Krejci, in particular, as he should be 100 percent healthy for the first time in three years after surgery on his left hip last spring. A healthy Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will give the Black and Gold their potent 1-2 punch down the middle and there’s also a healthy chip on the shoulder of the B’s defensemen crew after a difficult campaign last year.

Krug admitted as much while brushing off big picture questions about what happened last season, and why this season should be any different for a group of seven defensemen returning from last season’s crew ranked 19th in the league.

“I’m not going to talk about [last year]. We’re moving on. This group will use it as motivation moving forward. With this new practice facility, everybody is excited to get back together and start moving forward,” said Krug. “We have [D-men] pieces in here that maybe people aren’t getting too excited about, but we know what we have in this room. We’ve grown and developed together.

“We know that we’re highly capable of taking whatever is thrown our way. But I know the D-men especially are motivated to prove a lot of people wrong that we’re not ready to compete, and not ready to be a playoff team.”

That’s essentially what it comes down to for the Black and Gold. They can talk about regaining the hunger to compete and utilizing last season’s failures as motivation for this season, but it all amounts to nothing unless they show it on the ice on a consistent basis.

It will be months before everybody truly knows if it’s more than talk from the Bruins and before we learn whether the B’s even have the talent on the roster to truly compete in a difficult, improving Atlantic Division. 

For now, the optimism is running high for the returning Black and Gold players and that registers as something as they slowly ramp up to the start of training camp next month and the season opener on Oct. 13 in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. 

 

Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

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Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

BRIGHTON – It’s been a summer brimming with anticipation for Bruins players and management alike with the prospect of moving into a new, state-of-the-art practice facility.

The Bruins contingent hosted Jimmy Vesey at their new Warrior Ice Arena home a couple of weeks ago and the B’s players christened the ice by kicking off their informal captain’s practices on Monday morning.

Torey Krug, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano all hit the ice to work with a local goaltender and went through skating drills for the hour-plus to get the blood pumping. Krejci left the ice after roughly 15 minutes as he recovers from left hip surgery, but was still left excited at the prospect of practicing in the new digs after spending his entire Bruins career with Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington as their practice home.

The arena doesn’t officially open until the Bruins and New Balance hold a grand opening on Sept. 8, but color several Bruins veterans impressed.

“It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a little bit different than Wilmington,” said Krejci. “You guys will get a chance to see it next week, but it’s pretty cool.”

The captain’s practices will continue in earnest with more Bruins players joining the group as the calendar gets closer to the start of training camp. The expectation is that all of the B’s skaters will be wholly impressed with the new facility. 

Clearly, it’s got all the bells and whistles of a new rink, and the closer proximity is a bonus for Bruins players that these days live in and around Boston rather than in the distant suburbs.

There's even the distinct possibility in the not-so distant future that the Bruins could start holding game day morning skates at the practice facility rather than at the Garden. It's something already done in Montreal, where the Habs have a similar setup with their practice rink in Brossard, just outside of the city. 

“It’s beautiful. For the guys that have been the scenes and doing all the work in Wilmington all of these years, it’s great for them to be a part of this and move into a new building,” said Krug. “I’m fortunate to be here and be a part of it. That’s exciting.”

Krug joked that being an early arriver at Warrior Arena doesn’t guarantee him one of the big lockers in the dressing room once training camp gets going: “I’m pretty sure Zee [captain Zdeno Chara] will kick me out of whatever stall I picked. It’s obviously exciting to be one of the first guys skating on this ice.”

 

Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

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Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Austin Czarnik.

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