NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

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NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

Some might find it scary that Bruins players are beginning to scatter to the four corners of the Earth or at least Europe, anyway -- to play hockey while the NHL figures itself out.

Or perhaps its simply just things getting real with an NHL lockout that clearly looks like its going to wipe out the first few months of the season.

But the signings of David Krejci and Andrew Ference to Czech Republic teams in recent days and more immediately Thursdays news that Tyler Seguin has signed on with a Swiss League team are more a function were not going to see NHL hockey before December.

It should tell hockey fans that the players dont see NHL hockey coming back to North America for at least a few months as the sides continue to freeze each other out in formal negotiations.

The exodus to Europe is more necessity for players that require game intensity to remain sharp and keep ready for the NHL season when it finally does open. Ference explained that dynamic earlier this week to CSNNE.com after learning from the last NHL lockout.

During the last lockout you saw some guys that stayed behind when others went to Europe or played in the AHL," Ference said. "Those guys fell a step behind the other players when the NHL got started again, and they had a really difficult time catching up to the pace. Im in the last year of my deal and I cant afford to just sit around and allow the intensity to dial down in my workouts.

Its also a statement of leverage to the NHL that many of the worlds best players have other options. They can make money playing a kids game elsewhere if the league decides to keep padlocks in place until the NHLPA budges on the 20 percent salary rollbacks that have been proposed thus far.

The NHL wants to crush players, I think, said one source on the playersNHLPA side of things. It could get real ugly, and damage to the NHL Brand could be huge.

What young European or Russian Player will come over to punitive Rookie contract (5 years mandatory) when he can stay over there and do well? Maybe something good will develop but I see no sign of optimism at this point.

Dennis Seidenberg has also now officially signed with Mannheim in Germany as well, and will similarly be headed to his home country in Europe. Zdeno Chara wasnt in any hurry to head back to Slovakia with his daughter enrolled in Boston schools for this semester. But the 6-foot-9 captain is rumored to already have something in place with HC Slovan Bratislava to reunite with former Bs teammate Miroslav Satan -- when he does decide to head back to his home country as well.

On Friday it was announced the Swedish Elite League would also begin allowing NHL players on its rosters, so theres yet another option for the players currently skating circles in their NHL cities.

Theres always the chance any of these players could sustain injuries once the adrenaline levels go up in the European games, but they wont be paid by their NHL clubs if they come back to Boston unable to play. Its the reason why each player takes out a pricey insurance policy (at a cost of roughly 10,000-25,000 per 1 million of their contract according to one US underwriter that furnished nearly 100 policies during the 2004-05 lockout) prior to suiting up for their first European game

So thats probably going to keep many of them from diving to block shots at any given moment.

For many of these players its a rare chance to play at home when theyve been traveling to North America away from friends and family for their entire lives. For players like Ference and Seguin its similar to a student taking a semester abroad in Europe: a different experience in an exotic locale where theyll be furnished with free apartments, food, cars and other fringe benefits while also getting paid to play.

There should be a scary element to life going on for NHL players while their league goes under water due to pure, unadulterated greed, but thats the Russian Roulette game Gary Bettman and the owners are playing with their fans. Unlike potential work stoppages by the NFL and Major League Baseball, elite hockey players have options when the best league in the world locks their doors.

The players are simply exercising those options with the hope theyll be back in their familiar environs in time for the Holidays.

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.

Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."

The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.

With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.

The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract. 

 

 

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

The Bruins were all around the action on Wednesday as the massive hockey trades dropped fast and furiously, but once again they were on the outside with their anticipatory faces pressed up against the glass as the top GMs in the game did their thing.

Instead, the B’s were left to mull an offer sheet to Jacob Trouba that isn’t very likely to drop on Friday and wait for the secondary defenseman market in free agency as it appears the Oilers might have snapped up Jason Demers already.

Some of the bold moves clearly may be mistakes: the Canadiens got older, slower and much more explosive in swapping out P.K. Subban for Shea Weber one-for-one, but also will be tougher to play against in some ways with Weber and Andrew Shaw now added to the mix. Clearly, GM Dave Poile once again was the right manager in the right place at the right time to land the super-talented Subban, who will pack the hockey house in Nashville and help continue a tradition of stud defensemen for the Predators organization.

One keen hockey source cautioned me when I said the Habs got worse on Wednesday: “I don’t think people understand how good Weber really is in the East. Montreal has become a lot harder to play against with him and Shaw.”

This certainly may be true, but the Bruins lost their cherished Habs villain with Subban moving to the Nashville Predators, where he will become a genuine U.S. hockey market superstar. Subban was charismatic and colorful, and played the role with the flops and the phantom embellishment that has become synonymous with Habs hockey over the years.

His personality and elite skill level won him a Norris Trophy a few years back and made him one of the biggest stars in the NHL and his absence now significantly reduces the wattage of the modern Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. That’s another blow to a storied rivalry that was flat as its been in years last season without Milan Lucic. It’s one that might have some rocky roads ahead with the Bruins very clearly in need of some roster help.

Peter Chiarelli became the first GM in NHL history to trade both the first and second overall picks in the same draft after shipping away Tyler Seguin in 2013 and then dealing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday for young, developing D-man Adam Larsson.  Essentially he traded two top-of-the-draft lottery picks for two Swedish mid-first round talents in Loui Eriksson and Larsson. That’s going to leave many questioning his decision-making process until we see the final picture this October in Edmonton.

If things don’t go very right for the Oil this season, with Larsson developing into a prime time top-pairing D-man, the heat could turned up on Chiarelli in the never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.

Once again credit a veteran GM in Ray Shero with getting exactly what his team needed in a dynamic scoring force like Hall and doing it while giving up something that hadn’t been a significant piece over the past few seasons in New Jersey. This may just be the cost of doing business for Chiarelli if Lucic and Demers are indeed on their way to the Oilers as free agents, and if the whispers are true that Edmonton might move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for defensemen help as well.

None of this even begins to mention GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, who calmly and patiently waited out the Steve Stamkos free agency sweepstakes until his star player came back to him for a massive hometown discount. Now, he has the superstar, the young and talented core group and the players from those two second-round picks the B's charitably sent along for right wing bust Brett Connolly. 

The one thing that defies explanation is the Bruins-friendly voices that say inking the 22-year-old Trouba to an offer sheet “makes no sense.” Guess what really makes no sense? That would be going into next season with close to the exact same back-end group that missed the playoff cut over the past two seasons and couldn’t break the puck out of their zone under pressure if their collective lives depended on it.

The Bruins don’t have the trade assets in their organization to match offers of players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, and they were beaten to the punch for top free agent D-men like Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski and perhaps even Demers. That “makes no sense” for a Bruins team that finished 19th in the league in goals allowed and had a blue line group that couldn’t execute simple tape-to-tape passes up the ice.  

Signing Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract extension? Signing fringe free agent D-men like John-Michael Liles? Not getting anything done with anybody in the trade or free agency market around draft weekend and July 1? That’s what really “doesn’t make sense” to me if I’m trying to cough out the Black and Gold party line right about now.

Because the NHL management groups with the big stones, the matching respect factor and the real NHL assets are making big, bold moves all across the league right now, and the Bruins are still waiting idly for their numbers to get called at the NHL deli counter. 
 

Thursday, June 30: Another view of the Trouba offer sheet

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Thursday, June 30: Another view of the Trouba offer sheet

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while waiting for Matt Martin to be the Bruins’ big prize on July 1 as the rest of the NHL is making seismic changes to their roster with big, bold moves. Hint: the Black and Gold aren’t being very bold right now.

*Interesting piece by Marc Spector on the Jacob Trouba offer sheet issue, and whether it would be worth it to land him.

*Darren Dreger weighs in on the hour that stood the NHL on its head, and saw P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall get traded within minutes of each other.

*The Taylor Hall trade is based on hope, according to Edmonton sports radio host Jason Gregor. Interesting piece from him.

*Here’s more about the Hall/Larsson swap that has many around the league wondering what the Oilers were thinking.

*P.K. Subban checks in all the way from Paris, France with a message for his Canadiens fans, and for his new fan base in Nashville.

*Here’s a Tennessee perspective on the Shea Weber/P.K. Subban swap with the Preds getting younger, faster and more explosive with one of the NHL’s biggest superstars.

*Good look at the Montreal end of things from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu with the Habs convinced they got better on Wednesday. I am not so convinced after watching a soon-to-be 31-year-old Shea Weber run out of gas in the playoffs last year.

*For something completely different: Jason Pierre-Paul debuts a 4th of July fireworks safety PSA after unfortunately blowing his fingers off with firecrackers last July.