Haggerty: NHL's brutal offer sets stage for work stoppage

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Haggerty: NHL's brutal offer sets stage for work stoppage

Well, so much for a summer of cordial labor negotiations between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.

Sources within the NHLPA confirmed to CSNNE.com over the weekend that the laughable first offer submitted by the NHL last week was indeed not a rumor.

Here is the Greatest Hits package from the offer that left players scratching their heads:

The players would take an 11 percent cut from 57 percent of the revenue share to 46 percent. And they could take a cut of well over 20 percent as both sides haggle over what actually constitutes Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) in the next collective bargaining agreement.

The Salary Cap next season would be 52.516 million under the NHL's proposal or more than 10 million less than it was during the 2011-12 NHL season. The cap ceiling would be just 4 million over the midpoint for each team. (According to capgeek.com 19 NHL teams are already over the proposed cap ceiling and the league is already 130 million in guaranteed money over the allowable salary for next season. The salary cap floor would remain 8 million under the midpoint total for each team.)

There would be a five-year term limit on player contracts with no signing bonuses, no arbitration rights and a minimum of 10 years of service within the NHL before a player is granted free agency. Currently a player is granted unrestricted free agency after seven NHL seasons or after reaching 27 years of age. Entry-level contracts for rookie players would extend from three years to five years.

And those are just a few of the changes listed in the NHL's draconian openingoffer.

The league basically wants a caste system setin place in a league where not a single player is inthe top 50 money-earners among US athletes. It wants to scale back player cost and hopes to turn the NHL into a throwback league where players are little more than indentured servants.

In the proposed system the players have little bargaining power or negotiating clout until they are close to 30 years old. Until then, they'll simply have to eat whatever the owners decide to force-feed them as all proathletes did before the days of Curt Flood in Major League Baseball.

One source from the players end of things told CSNNE.com there wasnt a single thing in the NHL proposal that would be embraced or approved by the NHLPA membership. Not even close.

Instead the players are now trying to decide whether they should even accept the leagues first proposal as anything more than a list of stale jokes left over from the NHL Awards show.

Its interesting that the owners have made this proposal on the heels of their complaints about a broken system they missed an entire season to install in the first place. In reality, theyve reached record highs in revenue over the last five seasons culminating in a record3.3 billion last year.

Exhibit A of the leagues hypocrisy: Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold complained about the need for a CBA change just months before ladling out 196 million in guaranteed money to both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Heres what Leopold told the Star Tribune in April: "We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now. The Wild's revenues are fine. We're down a little bit in attendance, but we're up in sponsorships, we're up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we're generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And the Wild's biggest expense by far is player salaries.

Not a math major, Mr. Leopold, but it sounds like you willingly signed off on one of the biggest free agent spending binges in NHL history.

Plenty of fun can be had with numbers over the course of negotiations, but it's worth nothing that thatleague revenues have gone up by 50 percent since the end of the lockout in 2005. Player salaries have gone up by a rate of 15 percent during the same period of time.

The NHLs first CBA offer was unreasonable and one-sided, to put it kindly. It points to a summer-longexchange of labor ideas that will be far from the hug-fest both Bettman and Fehrwaxed hopefulaboutduring the last few months of the NHL season.

There are normally two types of negotiations in pro sports, no matter what the situation. There is the cordial, professional type of contract talks where both sides want desperately to get a deal done. During those negotiations there are little if any hurt feelings when a resolution has been reached.A "happily ever after"marriage usuallycontinues on both sides afterward.

Then there are the negotiations where one side is immediately insulted by a lowball offer meant to either A) create dissension between the party theyre negotiating with or B) send a message there really isnt a desire to reach common ground on a new contract.

Im willing to go with the former rather than the latter when it comes to the NHL as they have plenty to lose: television deals, rising ratings and record revenues along with that TV jewel known as the Winter Classic.

The NHL also has a group of elite hockey players they have no choice but to employ if they want to keep the good hockey times rolling.

But the leagues recent offer makes a work stoppage a distinct possibility. Both sides are getting ready to meet in New York this week to see if that can be avoided at this early stage of negotiations.

Most industry insiders felt that a few months of the season would probably be missed, much like what the NBA went through last year. "When looking at labor negotiations you always look toward the other sports," said one industry insider to CSNNE.com. "The NBA didn't get started until Christmas, but attendance and TV ratings were strong by the time the playoffs rolled around. Nobody remembered the work stoppage. So the NHL could survive if they miss a few months."The presiding feeling was that the season would be back on schedule by December -- or at the very worst casewhenthe Winter Classic was set to arrive on New Years Day.

Now those thoughts have been shaken by one miserly, Montgomery Burns-likeoffer.

Its unclear whether the NHLPA plans to bring a counter-offer with them to the Big Apple as Bettman and Fehr ready for another round of discussions this week. But it might behoove the NHLPA to let the league know they mean business by coming down hard on the gag-filled first offering.

Perhaps Fehr and his players will take the tact Michael Corleone chose in Godfather II. When Michael was being insulted by a crooked senator during an attempt to venture into the casino business, he provided us this cold-bloodedline:

You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: Nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

Perhaps Fehr and Co. could walk into the NHL offices this week, briefcases in hand, and calmly pronounce that their counter-offer is nothing and wait until September when owners might suddenly realize theyre killing their sport.

They must understand that missing an entire year so close to the last lockout is akin to league suicide.

But the NHLs first penny-pinching offer isnt a good sign that play will get underway without a Zdeno Chara-sized hitch this fall. In fact, right now, that seems to be the best-case scenario to an increasingly bad situation.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.