Entry level contracts shouldn't be holding CBA talks up

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Entry level contracts shouldn't be holding CBA talks up

While the NHL and NHLPA are engaged in an epic game of shut up thats lasted almost a week, heres an interesting wrinkle on one of the player contract rights thats suddenly become a big bone of contention: Some NHL executives are actually surprised the players association hasnt jumped all over the two-year entry level as something that could become a potential boon to young NHL players.

Its been widely assumed that dropping the majority of entry-level contracts from three years to two years in the next CBA would wrangle down the skyrocketing second contracts NHL superstars like Taylor Hall (seven years and 42 million) and Tyler Seguin (six years and 34.5 million) have secured at precocious young ages.

Both forwards signed their pimped out second contracts just prior to the Sept. 15 work stoppage, and it was seen as both players getting deals done that might well become extinct in the brave new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But there are some NHL minds that think the two year entry level idea is something that serves the players as much if not more than it does the league.

I was actually surprised to see that one in the leagues proposal, and surprised it hasnt been received more favorably, said one league source. Think about it: the money teams are going to save by lopping off the third year in the entry level contracts isnt going to amount to a considerable sum. Most of those entry-level deals are for short money.

But for players like Seguin or Hall its going to get them to bigger dollar numbers more quickly. Rather than waiting for their fourth year in the league to really cash in, theyll be doing it a year earlier provided theyve shown they can play in the first two years.

Since both Hall and Seguin and Jeff Skinner to name a third signed their deals before their third NHL season, the argument that two seasons isnt enough time for players to establish lofty dollar values doesnt seem to hold water. Some NHL players dont develop until the third year of their entry-level deal, but those select skaters are actually in the minority when looking at big RFA contract extensions over the last few years.

Above and beyond the NHLs bright lights getting paid even earlier in their careers, a two-year entry level system would also make North America more attractive to European players looking to dip their toe in the waters. The Bruins had held the rights to Swedish import Carl Soderberg since trading Hannu Toivonens rights to the St. Louis Blues in 2007, but the enigmatic Swede has resisted all invitations for an NHL tryout.

Who knows?

Perhaps a smaller commitment of two years rather than three would entice some of the more sheepish foreign hockey imports like Soderberg that are currently shying away from North America.

Its certainly much more conducive to attracting players from Europe and Russia than switching to a five-year entry level contract that would tether them down for a half-decade.

Dropping to a two-year entry level system under the proposed player contract rights being offered by the NHL could result in a few more holdouts given the lessening of arbitration rights and a potential unrestricted free agent finish line pushed to 28 years old. Thats a potential downside when players have no other recourse, but the NHL owners will always pay money to protect the best, young, exciting talent on their respective teams. Players will also have the threat of offer sheets in the restricted free agency despite the fact many NHL GMs seem deathly allergic to the mere thought of them.

Even if the NHL CBA crafters believe that a two-year entry level system will bring back the traditionally modest second contracts to the NHL, the high number of players achieving stardom at 18 or 19 years old completely flies in the face of that theory.

It will be interesting to see how things play out, but dont be surprised if the NHLPA is remarkably compliant on the two-year entry level deal portion over the player contract rights theyre currently talking about.

Or not talking about as the case may be.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

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Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.