Boston Bruins

Shawn Thornton on why players haven't accepted deal

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Shawn Thornton on why players haven't accepted deal

Bruins winger Shawn Thornton joined Gary Tanguay and Mike Felger on UNO's Sports Tonight Tuesday night and discussed the current state of the NHL lockout.

So, how's he feeling about it all right now?

"Frustrated, angry, would like to just be playing but obviously it's out of our hands right now," Thornton said. "It seems like it's just another money grab and won't fix anything. It's kind of our stance so we're looking for ways to fix it but the league doesn't really want to hear our ideas."

Thornton, who expects the league and players to start up talks again soon, isn't sure about how long the lockout could last. But he knows why the players are taking a stand.

"Right now it's either a 24-percent roll back was the first offer from the owners," Thornton said. "The second one was 18-20 percent depending on certain numbers. We want to fix it. We know there's some markets that are in trouble and we want to help those markets by growing the game in those markets and going forward, but just reaching into our pockets and taking 20-percent of our contracts that we negotiated in good faith we don't think is the answer."

While some owners are crying poor, others are signing players with no issue. Some are both crying poor and signing players to big contracts.

"We had Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold in the negotiating committee for the league saying how terrible he was doing, then he signed 240 million (closer to 200 million) worth of contract for two guys over 14 years the next day," Thornton said. "So it's very confusing for everyone, us included. It's tough to believe it sometimes but we're trying to figure out a way to get through it."

Some NHL players can go to the KHL in Russia and still get paid a high enough salary to make it worth not signing a bad deal with the owners. Felger notes Penguins star Evgeni Malkin as one example.

But for a guy like Thornton, that money isn't available like that. Thornton admits he's starting to get his "ducks in a row" in terms of playing overseas if need be, but he also hopes it doesn't come to that.

"I'm still optimistic, I still hope we get this done in the next little bit," he said. "But I also don't want to get caught with my pants down either."

As far as missing an entire year of hockey, it would certainly hurt someone like Thornton's bank account. But just like players before him took a hit for the future of the game, Thornton is prepared to do the same.

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.   

Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

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Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while once again shaking my head reading the news headlines this morning. 

 

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Aaron Portzline, who is another esteemed hockey writer joining up with The Athletic’s Cleveland bureau

 

*Eric Engels says that the Habs signing Mark Streit to a short term deal means that Andrei Markov’s time in Montreal has come to a close. 

 

*The writers for the Pittsburgh Penguins have provided what they call “an Intimate Portrait” of Sidney Crosby from his closest boyhood friends. 

 

*Longtime NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau is trying something a little different out as an owner of a junior hockey team. 

 

*The Nashville Predators are expecting a decision to come soon on Mike Fisher as to whether or not he’s going to keep on playing in Music City. 

 

*Sounds like Mika Zibanejad is going to be filling a No. 1 center role for the New York Rangers after signing a big contract with the Blueshirts. 

 

*For something completely different: Jay Baruchel is looking to revive the Canadian superhero scene after growing up with Captain Canada and Alpha Flight.