Haggerty: 'The blessed end might be near'

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Haggerty: 'The blessed end might be near'

The blessed end might just be near.

With the news that the NHL submitted a 300-page document to the NHLPA that constitutes the most thorough offer handed out during the four month NHL lockout, the two sides stepped much closer to ending a work stoppage thats dragged the league into embarrassment and torment. Thats a good thing because the NHL has also basically pinpointed a Jan. 11 date that both sides must have a working agreement in order, so a 48-game shortened NHL season can begin on Jan. 19.

According to sources close to the negotiation, the NHL and NHLPA will host a Saturday afternoon conference call to discuss the offer, pore over the details, answer each others questions and exchange ideas. If all goes well then the two sides will get together on Sunday in New York City for the first face-to-face meeting since the first week of December and thats expected to be a precursor to a deal taking place.

That all of this is happening in the same breath reports are circulating the 30 NHL Board of Governors told commissioner Gary Bettman that losing an entire season is not an option tells you all you need to know.

More good news: sources have indicated to CSNNE.com that NHL employees have been told to return to their cities of employment and plan for a mid-January start to the season. Its understandable that some would say weve been down this road before, and they are 100 percent correct.

There may even be another small bump or two on the road to a fully executed CBA as Donald Fehr and the NHLPA ask for a few more tweaks on their end of the deal: the players are blanching at the 60 million salary cap theyll be facing in the second year of the deal and there are concerns about no limit to the amount the league can lock up in an escrow account.

But for all intents and purposes the NHLPA moderates have received everything they could have hoped they would get in the deal. The players knew they were going to be on the losing end of the CBA proposition, and that their share of Hockey Related Revenue was going way, way down. It was simply a matter of getting the best deal possible while preserving some semblance of the 2013 season, and the players have received that under Fehrs leadership.

Some of the highlights of the deal:

The NHL has raised the contract term limits from five to six years with teams able to re-sign their own players up to seven years.

The NHL will allow up to 10 percent variance on year-to-year salaries on contracts up from 5 percent in all of their past offers.

The NHL will keep the 300 make whole money to offset the drop in Hockey Related Revenue percentage after they insisted it was off the table during their last round of discussions.

The NHL will allow each of the 30 teams one amnesty buy-out opportunity prior to the 2013-14 season that will not count against the cap, but will come out of the players share of revenue.

All non-playoff teams will be included in an NHL draft lottery with a chance at the No. 1 overall pick similar to the highly successful NBA draft lottery.

A 10-year CBA that will ensure both sides have labor peace for a long period of time that will allow the sport to recover from two ugly lockouts within eight years of each other that truly challenged the health and well-being of the NHL.

The NHLPA has won back some respect as a union with no greater compliment that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman lashing out at the hard bargaining techniques employed by Fehr and Co. when he blew up in front of the media on Dec. 6. In fact the NHL has backed off the term limits on individual player contracts after Deputy Commissioner infamously said that was the hill we will die on three weeks ago.

The big question now is why didnt this happen three weeks ago?

When it was clear the NHL and NHLPA were close to a deal and they could have potentially saved a 60-game regular season, why didnt the NHL push ahead with this 300-page full, comprehensive offer as answer to the players early December proposal?

The NHL instead stormed out of the meeting with Bettman calling down fire and brimstone fury during a more than 30-minute press conference. Why wouldnt the league simply engage in give-and-take negotiations if their intent was truly to get back on the ice as quickly as possible?

There might even be one more fit of pique left in the Bettman and Daly bag of tricks prior to an early January agreement on a CBA, but all of that seems almost a fait accompli at this point. Almost everybody thought there would be some sort of shortened NHL season this year despite the lockout, but nobody thought the vitriol and hard feelings will things to get this far gone.

The good news is that the end is nigh and NHL hockey should be back less than a month from now. The bad news is that the NHL and the NHLPA are going to need to take a long, hard look at ways to win the fandom back after alienating so many through one of the most embarrassing CBA negotiations in the history of professional sports.

They proved after 2004-05 they were capable of doing it, and now they must do whatever it takes all over again.

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

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Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson was named the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations after longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired, the team announced.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights [late owner] Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss' daughter, Jim Buss' brother and Lakers president and co-owner, said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnson, the Hall of Famer guard who led L.A. to five NBA titles, said in the same statement: “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson, part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, returned to the organization as an adviser earlier this month. Johnson coached the Lakers briefly in the 1993-94 season, going 5-11. 

Johnson's new job with the Lakers won't change his role with the Dodgers, according to the L.A. Times.

The current Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-39 after finishing with the second-worst mark in the league (17-65) last season. Kupchak was named an assistant GM under Jerry West in 1986 and in 2000 took over for West as GM.