Haggerty: Why today's NHL offer won't be accepted, and why that's OK

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Haggerty: Why today's NHL offer won't be accepted, and why that's OK

Lets start with this: The 5050 offer made by the NHL on Tuesday isnt going to be accepted by the players.

Thats not necessarily a bad thing as much as its a negotiating thing. Gary Bettman and the 30 NHL overlords finally got the serious talks rolling on Tuesday when they submitted an offer that would preserve an 82-game schedule that would begin on Nov. 2.

We believe that this was a fair offer for a long-term deal, and it's one that we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on November 2 -- which backing up, entails at least a one-week training camp, said Bettman. So we have about nine or ten days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.

We hope that this effort that we've undertaken today would be successful because we know how difficult this all has been for everybody associated with the game, particularly our fans.

Here are the cold hard details:

The league would institute a week-long training camp followed by an NHL season where missed games would be added to the back end of the schedule.

The offer would also immediately drop the players share of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) to a 5050 split from the current 57 percent level, and would require considerable escrow considerations. It would also require the NHL to pay back the salary lost by players in Year 1 through a series of payment installments over the life of the players contract.

The NHL also backed off slightly on player contract terms. They added another year to make it eight years of service or 28 years old before free agency. The league will keep entry level contracts at three years. It will also keep salary arbitration and would cap all contract terms to a maximum of five years in length.

A few quick thoughts on all of this:

1) The offer clearly puts the pressure on Donald Fehr and the NHLPA as they now have roughly 10 days to work off this proposal and find a way to get something done before both sides give up on an 82-game schedule. Its a lead pipe lock that the players union wont accept this offer fully (they may want to see more revenue sharing, a longer term limit on contracts and the current free agency terms, among other things), but it is something they can work off of to make a workable deal moving forward. Fehr has a reputation as a deal-maker and everybody will now get to see how he makes something happen with a group of players that clearly want to get back to playing hockey. For a league that had its focus group strategy revealed yesterday, its both a clever PR move and a good negotiating strategy that makes the players look greedy if they dont embrace a 5050 split that everybody seemed to see coming.

2) Why did it take this long for a real offer from the league? Its pretty clear the NHL was in no hurry to get things moving with a legit offer, and was happy to miss the first month of the season while waiting to see if Fehr and the NHLPA would crumble in front of them. The league has knocked out one of the slow months of the season that typically kills the non-traditional markets, and will instead sprinkle in games toward the end of the season that will provide good attendance throughout the league. Theoretically keeping an 82-game schedule in a condensed time period could hike Hockey Related Revenue beyond last years numbers. In the end the league is going win this negotiation because this was their plan all along, and only a strong reaction from Fehr and the players could turn this into a lost season proposition. I just dont see that happening at this point.

3) Fehr had told the players during group conference calls and meetings that he didnt have anything he could work off of in negotiations during the previous two months. That led to plenty of wasted time discussing things that didnt really matter in the grand scheme of things. The NHLPA now something Fehr can work off of and almost two weeks to make it happen while the NHL sits and waits. Expect a counter-proposal within a couple of days and some serious discussions leading up through next week as both sides attempt to make something happen. If they can find a middle ground and make an 82-game season possible with a Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend and all of the other fixings that hockey fans have become accustomed to, then nobody is going to remember the hyperbole and heated words leading up to a new CBA once the playoffs roll around.

Things clearly arent a done deal after todays offer from the NHL, and there is legitimacy in those that fear this is some kind of Frank Luntz-crafted maneuver simply to start winning the PR war. But if it also opens the door for a deal to be consummated in the next two weeks by Bettman and Fehr, nobody is really going to care why it happened in the first place.

The fans have spoken loudly and clearly, and they just want the NHL back. That reality isnt a fait accompli, but its one step closer to being one after today.

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

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Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs