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.

Are they on a crash course?

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Are they on a crash course?

This is the first in a five-part “Rebuilding the Bruins” series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction.

In many ways, this offseason is shaping up as a typical one for the Boston Bruins. There'll be roster fixes -- like last year's Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton trades on NHL draft weekend -- that they hope will result in upgrades and improvements. They'll work with their prospects and draft picks, looking for maturation and development . Hopefully, they'll work toward building a greater level of accountability and urgency among the core players, most of whom are expected to return.

And it some ways it's atypical. The heat is most definitely on president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney after a second consecutive late-season collapse left the Bruins -- again -- one point shy of the postseason. Ownership clearly expects better, and has made its "expectations" clear.

The question is: Are Neely and Sweeney doing what needs to be done to get the franchise back on track?

“If people were to ask ‘Who is head of hockey operations?’, it’s a collaborative effort between a number of people,” said Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs. “But if you ask for one sort of name, I would say it’s Cam Neely. I’m fairly certain my father" -- team owner Jeremy Jacobs -- "would share that sentiment.

"I just want to clarify. . . about investing in our team. It’s something that we continually do. We had leveraged our future (in recent years in an attempt to win immediately) to the point where something had to change last summer. We made the change and we’re righting the ledger, if you will, by stocking our team back up with prospects with the ability for cap flexibility to make the proper moves moving forward.

“We will always invest in this team. I think now we’re back on the right side of the ledger. We have an opportunity in front of us to move forward. We are a cap team and there should be expectations in an Original Six market that we continue to be a playoff contender and, frankly, a Stanley Cup contender. Given the mix of talent that we currently have on the roster and the youth that’s coming in, Cam’s aware of those expectations, as is Don.”

Those expectations underscore how much work there is to be done for a middling hockey club with some valuable individual pieces -- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, David Pastrnak -- but far too many weaknesses that can be easily exploited by the better teams around the NHL.

The reality is, the Bruins are stuck in the mediocre middle right now . . . and that's a bad place to be. They're picking at No. 14 again, where the truly game-changing type of young player that Boston needs isn't available. In addition, the Bruins won’t be a true Stanley Cup contender again until they have a No. 1 defenseman in the 25-to-33-years-old range capable of playing 30 quality minutes per night over a long, two-month postseason run. They could also use a big, strong right winger with top-6 offensive potential. And they need to come up with an adequate backup goalie for Tuukka Rask.

That's a lot of work for Sweeney in one offseason.

“We just need to continue to get better, you know?” said Sweeney. “This is a performance-driven business and we’re going to be held to that standard and you know we fell short. We do believe that we should have [been in the playoffs]. That's not disparaging against the eight teams that [started the playoffs in the East] . . . [those] that are there they deserve it, and we fell just short of that. I still believe that we had a strong enough group to get in and challenge there. Then you just wait and see what happens.

"But we fell short in that and I take ownership of it. It’s on me; it’s not on anybody else to continue to improve our roster. That’s on me.”

Many around the league use terms like “half-pregnant” when describing the Bruins. Last season the B's had one foot pointed toward a rebuild and the other foot pointed toward competing for a playoff spot. In the end, they accomplished neither. Clearly, they were good enough to be in the playoffs -- the seventh-best goal differential in the East, a top-five offense and well above-average special teams’ play was enough to offset their shaky defense -- but Sweeney has to realize that even they'd made it they were destined to go out in the first round . . .which was the fate of the Red Wings and Flyers, the teams they were battling for one of the final two postseason spots in the East.

And that raises a deeper question: Is this current plan of action in the best long-term interest of the Bruins?

The front office's failings at the trade deadline are a prime example. Rather than face reality -- that even if they'd made the playoffs, they weren't going beyond one round -- the Bruins instead:

a) Shipped out future draft picks for marginal veteran upgrades in Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles.

b) Held onto unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Loui Eriksson, who was having his best season in a Boston uniform and might have fetched valuable long-term assets in a trade. That option no longer exists with Eriksson now on his way out the door.

Neely and Sweeney might argue that it’s pure media-driven hindsight to criticize those trade-deadline moves, which now look especially bad since the team failed to qualify for the postseason, but it's their jobs to shape the team’s future. It should have been very clear to both that the Bruins didn’t have the right stuff to make any kind of a playoff run. Playing and developing their promising young players down the stretch should have been the priority, but, frankly, that never felt like the case after Sweeney's band-aid trades for veteran rentals.

This was never more evident than when the Bruins flew Frank Vatrano cross-country on emergency recall at the start of the season-changing California road trip in late March, sat him for the loss to the San Jose Sharks, and then flew him back to Providence without having played a game. The emergency recall made little sense, especially considering how they could have used Vatrano’s scoring touch.

That simple fact was hammered home when the Bruins did come to their senses shortly afterward and recalled Vatrano, along with fellow prospect Colin Miller, for the final few pivotal games of the season. Both of those talented players should have been gaining that playoff-stretch experience in Boston all along. And who knows? They might have even provided the one extra point that ultimately cost them the playoff spot they so coveted.

Cultivating the next generation of Bruins talent is what will once again get them closer to their stated goal of Stanely Cup contention. (They’ll also need to get lucky with a top-pairing defenseman, or two, dropping into their lap along the way, of course.) But they'll be doomed to repeat the uninspired work of the last two seasons if they keep sailing the same course.

The Bruins need clarity in direction at the top of the organizational food chain. They need to do the right thing, rather than the easy thing.

The question is whether the Bruins want a nice, little playoff team or a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and whether they have the temerity and the discipline to make certain it’s the latter rather than the former. Bruins management needs to start making hard, unpopular choices if it doesn't want the listless history of the last two years to continue repeating itself.

 

May 2, 2016: Martin Jones standing tall in Sharks net

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May 2, 2016: Martin Jones standing tall in Sharks net

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving everybody a 24-hour reprieve from any Game of Thrones spoilers.

 

*Good to see FOH (Friend of Haggs) Nick Cotsonika back with a byline covering the NHL: here he writes about Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop with some thoughts from Martin Brodeur.

 

*David Backes got the ultimate birthday present when he snapped home a game-winning overtime goal for the Blues.

 

*Boston boy Rick DiPietro is working without a net as an analyst for the New York Islanders now that his goaltending career has come to a close.

 

*Jaromir Jagr was named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for his decades’ long dedication to the game of hockey.

 

*Brooks Orpik is suspended three games for his head shot on Olli Maatta, and it’s a bit ironic it happens against the Pittsburgh Penguins team he spent plenty of years throwing predator hits for prior to joining Washington.

 

*Damien Cox has a mock NHL Draft now that the top 14 lottery picks have been set in stone following last weekend.

 

*Martin Jones is standing tall for the San Jose Sharks, and proving to be a difference-maker in his first season for them between the pipes.

 

*For something completely different: as the father of a newborn baby girl, I read about this Zika virus and find it absolutely terrifying and tragic.

May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

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May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after thinking Barack Obama gave Jeffrey Ross a run for his money as the Roast-master In Chief at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

*The man behind the music at American Airlines Arena for the Dallas Stars’ games comes into the spotlight for a story.

 

*Don Cherry sings the praises of Joel Ward, wears a Toronto Marlies suit and said “it was time to go” for Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Penguins coach Mike Sullivan taking major issue with the head shot Brooks Orpik laid on Olli Maatta.

 

*The Maple Leafs secure the No. 1 overall pick in last night’s NHL Draft lottery, which will no doubt lead them to Auston Matthews.

 

*Now that the Edmonton Oilers have the No. 4 pick, Peter Chiarelli is open to trade options for those teams wanting to move up.

 

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is once again thriving in Ontario just a year after a major health scare.

 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on the unique journey for Brent Burns that culminated in his Norris Trophy finalist honor this week.

 

*Spector has the roundup of rumors including plenty of speculation on Kevin Shattenkirk once the Blues are done in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: a couple of reporters actually got into an actual fight at the White House Correspondent’s after-party. It sounds like they both kind of deserved a punch in the face, to be honest.