Haggerty: NHL CBA talks set to pick up

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Haggerty: NHL CBA talks set to pick up

BALTIMORE In today'sCBA talks between the players and the league, the NHLPA finally will give their long awaited answer today to last months resoundingly unreasonable opening NHL proposal.

Donald Fehr, his staff and a host of players have been gathering information while meeting with NHL officials in New York and Toronto. Questions have been asked on both sides. Most of those informational queries have been adequately answered, while some, probably, have not.

Instead NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has dropped the L word as in lockout into the summer discussion in recent days. He has confirmed the owners will indeed lock out the players if no agreement is reached by the Sept. 15 day that the current CBA expires.

A work stoppage is something the players desperately do not want, but something they appeared solidly ready to absorb if the alternative is turning back NHL playing conditions to what they were 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.

Expect a couple of things to happen when reports surface about the contents of the proposal: 1) It will include some level of a revenue sharing and luxury tax system modeled after Major League Baseball, 2) it wont include any of the major bullet point conditions from last months NHL proposal (a drop in players share of Hockey Related Revenue, 10 years of service until free agency, the abolition of arbitration etc.) and 3) it should provide similar conditions those under which the NHL has thrived during the last six seasons.

One source inside the NHLPA said in the days following the leagues offer that there wasnt a single acceptable condition among the major points, and the sense is that it was put out there to potentially fracture the union membership.

That hasnt happened.

Fehr has long concluded that Major League Baseball has the healthiest, the most viable and the most sensible economic system among the four major sports, and thats probably not a surprise given that he was one of the architects that helped craft its structure. It would appear hes now attempting to do the same thing in the NHL where teams like the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs among others would spend over the salary cap if they were allowed to do so under the CBA.

Those teams could then help subsidize the have not clubs in New Jersey, Phoenix and Florida among others that annually lose money. Those impoverished NHL teams currently under fiscal water are being held up by the NHL as the prime reason why the system is currently broken despite a record 3.3 billion in revenues. A luxury tax system would give them a lift up just like the largesse of the New York Yankees helped allow every other Major League Baseball club survive through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

The answers are all there for the NHL owners if theres more concern for the games health prognosis than for its profit margin.

One interesting byproduct of introducing the luxury taxincreased revenue sharing system to the talks: It will pit owner against owner on the NHL side of the bargaining table.
On the other hand, its pretty clearthat all NHL players are on the same page, represented by the fact that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will fly in for the players presentation.Crosby is the face of the NHL as its marquee player, and his presence speaks volumes to just how determined the players are to dig in their heels.

Steve Stamkos, Mike Cammalleri, Jason Spezza, P.K. Subban and John Tavares are also among the "whos who" of 23 players that showed up for the presentation. There were no Bruins players at the pivotal meeting on Tuesday, but Daniel Paille, Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron have all been present at different stages of the discussion.

Fehr even went to the trouble in recent weeks of meeting with the European players in Barcelona to apprise them of the talks a gesture that past NHLPA leadership had never extended to their considerable European membership.

The NHLs response to a considerably different manner of offer from the players union will be telling. Perhaps Bettman and his Board of Governors will be open-minded about a new financial system where each and every team could survive without having to worry about going into NHL receivership, like the Coyotes. But the NHL is a business and it would be surprising if Toronto, New York and Chicago et al would be willing to give up a margin of their profits for the well-being of the league.

The league's initial proposal expected players to give up a chunk of their share of the pie, shoving a salary cap, a 24 percent salary rollback and year-long lockout down their throats.

Optimism has been hard to come by when it comes to the NHL starting on time in October, and all are about to see exactly how realistic those doomsday discussions have been. The hope is that the worst-case scenario has the NHL season starting between Thanksgiving and New Years Day so not to interrupt the national TV schedule.
A lockout would be painful and fraught with angst from finger-wagging hockey fans, of course, but ultimately the sport, its irreplaceable players and those that love it would all survive in the end.
Keep your fingers crossed, hockey fans, but it could be a bumpy ride before your NHL plane comes to a full and complete landing.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.