A rumor that Boston’s most famous hockey playing fashionista might be returning to the NHL this year set Bruins fans abuzz for hours. Anders Per Johan Axelsson known on this side of the pond simply as “PJ” was a stalwart member of the Black and Gold for a dozen NHL seasons. His penalty killing, work ethic, and fashion sense are greatly missed in some quarters. Axelsson’s agent did not return contact by the time this was published.

There is a new and exciting youth hockey league coming to the USA this fall. September will see the sixteen initial teams of the Midwest Junior Hockey League skate into action in two conferences of eight teams. The conferences will be broken down into four team divisions. The young men will chase the Veterans Memorial Cup. Tryouts, team locations and other information available at their website. Follow them on twitter @MWJHLHockey visit their site MWJHL and like them on Facebook. Tell them @PuckSage sent you.

Tyler Seguin is looking for a +1 for the Batman Dark KnightRises premiere.

Batman premiere tomorrow night. Anyone wanna be the plus 1
@tylerseguin92
Tyler Seguin

The former #2 pick, Stanley Cup Champion, Bruins 7th Player Award Winner, former NHL Young  Sttar and NHL All Star and committed Whole Foods shopper is apparently lacking in companionship. Please help him.

The everlasting gobstopper of hockey stories; Where’s Rick Nash going to be in October has not of course wasted away to a memory. Instead it lingers and brings two other important questions: Who will be captain when he leaves? Who will be the teams (token) All Star representative and likely the captain of one team? Assuming he goes it’s looking more and more like James Wisniewski could be a future NHL captain and All Star. Free popcicles for everyone, not just Sean Avery.

The owners reported first offer to the NHLPA has been covered in depth both here and elsewhere. Donald Fehr is known to be a firebrand. The possibilities for his response are nearly limitless. Depending on what level they want to respond to the ownership positions there are a bunch of things that could be included with an equal degree of feasibility. I’ll skip the logical middle ground for now and go into that later on.

Possible positions the NHLPA can respond with that are on an equal level to the owners proposals:

  • Pay at the daily breakdown rate of their salary during the playoffs.
  • Minimum NHL game and minute counts on entry level contracts for retention of the player as an RFA.
  • No entry level contract for undrafted players
  • Same pay at NHL, AHL and ECHL for entry level contracts
  • No confidence voting for NHL officials where a simple majority would mean the dismissal of said official (from linesman to announcer to commissioner)
  • Paid transportation to and from home for all players going to official team events
  • 100% pay for buyouts
  • Teams dressing less than the 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders each game would have to give each player in their system, regardless of the level they are assigned to,  a bonus equivalent to 1 days pay at the NHL level.
  • Unrestricted right to use team and league logos, names and imagery when endorsing other products.

 

A bit back this was part of a post of mine:

When the NHL CBA talks eventually become the top news in the hockey world, don’t think for a minute this will be as simple as owners vs players. This will be big market teams vs small, older players vs younger, stars vs role players. Divisions will center around revenue sharing both among teams and with players. Escrow figures and who if anyone will be be exempt from them are a likely topic as well. One of the favorite topics of pundits over the last month or two surrounding the next collective bargaining agreement is if there will or won’t be a one time get buyout period similar to the NBA’s to rid teams of bad contracts. An issue that might or might not come up is Olympic play. With the 2014 Olympics looming, some players will be very eager to represent their country even if the NHL doesn’t formally break for the festivities. Realignment will also end up on the table. I would not be terribly surprised to see ownership pushing for a unilateral right to rearrange divisions and schedule formats.

The proposal leaked last night reminds me forcibly of what I’ve heard called “The Best Buy Model”. When Best Buy did their rapid expansion from a regional chain to the largest electronics brick and mortar store, they did it with high end product, and they paid the best to be the best. Once they hit the top of the food chain, much of that changed. The sales teams lost commissions and their service quality spiraled. Their “Geek Squad” has been accused of multiple acts of misconduct along the way, and there is serious doubt as to the longterm viability of the entire company. Labor quality is inextricably linked to financial well being for companies. When labor is the product that is even more true. Hollywood can’t survive without reasonably able actors, directors and writers, nor can the NHL survive without both star and rank and file players. I don’t take the RDS reported ownership positions as set in stone, merely as ominous.

Going over each point there is a lot of ground the owners are failing to notice or simply failing to acknowledge.

Revenue split roll back:

Dropping the cap floor would work far more effectively. Setting it to about 38-40 million and letting the ceiling rise will have a better regulating effect on salaries than just dropping the ceiling with a rollback. Better still, it allows teams more room to pay entry level players and role players like role players.  Stars who hit UFA status can be paid 8 to 15 million a year if you you’re not paying third line wingers who play twelve minutes a night four million. Multiple stars. There will be less European talent staying in Europe, and less chance of the KHL or other leagues expanding to North America.

Contract length limits:

Don’t let your general manager give out long contracts. Just like might not allow more than one no movement clause or more than two or three no trade clauses. It’s your team, run it your way. Some players however can be counted on to play well even if they have a “lifetime contract”. I doubt anyone sees Jonathan Toews putting on forty pounds and no longer backchecking if he signs an eight year contract. I don’t think Shea Weber will start showing up to the rink and doing the morning skate with a 40 of Natty Ice if he gets an eight year contract. Are some players slugs? Sure. But offering a contract to any given player isn’t something a team is forced to do. Is there a risk a player will go elsewhere for two more years on deal? Yes of course, but all business is risk. Have the right environment and the type of players who it takes to win will stick to it.

Elimination of signing bonuses:

This is honestly the most silly. For entry level contracts there is a good reason for them. Teenagers have no or limited credit, and buying a house or condo or renting an apartment requires a credit check in most places. If you don’t pass, you don’t buy or rent, or do so at a much higher price. For older players, they should be like NMC’s or long term; given to players who are worth it only.

Flat contracts:

This one is self defeating for owners. It makes trading players who may have been eclipsed by younger players harder. Yes it will allow other teams to sign $100million contracts worth 80 million in the first 5 years and 20 in the last 10 to spend cap dollars and not real dollars, or trade the cap space to other teams, but it allows all thirty teams the same room.

Five Year Entry Level:

This is another one of those things that is self defeating. A player on a three year deal knows every game counts. Telling your aver 18 year old “Yep if you suck this year, in 5 years when you don’t have arbitration we’re gonna hold it against you.”  isn’t going to do much to motivate them to improve day over day, week over week, and year over year. It can’t, it won’t. Now, a minimum of two years played full time in the NHL until expiration or three full years in the AHL/ECHL is saner.

Next post on the CBA will be a same middle ground and or counter proposals for the NHLPA.

We’ve seen the first set of Ownership demands for the CBA and they are:

  • 10 Years until UFA status.
  • 5 year entry level contracts instead of the current 3
  • No arbitration of contracts instead of arbitration after the second contract
  • 46% revenue to the players
  • 5 Year maximum on contracts

If this actually represents a hardline or even a near approximation of what the owners really want, this will be trouble. There will be a labor stoppage. The season will not get started on time at best. If the more than 25% of the season is gone before negotiations succeed the league will either be forced to contract or take over three or four additional franchises.

Some of these shouldn’t even be CBA issues. If a team wants to give out lifetime contracts such as Rick Dipietro’s or Sidney Crosby’s, that’s their lookout. If an owner doesn’t want to give out contracts over a certain number of years they should be prepared to accept their players walking. If they want players to stick around that’s pretty simple too: having a winning environment, don’t tolerate idiots at the controls, and don’t be a butthead to your players either in person or via the media.

I’ve spent years in sales, negotiated contracts, hell I’ve written them from scratch and this is silly. Low balling your opposite number is a time honored tradition. But low balling someone and spitting in their faces are two different things. I’m sure the ownership group believes this is a Churchill like pose of defiance and strength, it comes across more like Montgomery Burns or Yosemite Sam.

Did the owners learn nothing from watching the recent NFL labor dispute? The players have more sex appeal, more cache, are better loved, and are the backbone of the product. Fans will side with them. This isn’t the NBA where everyone makes a couple million a year and the biggest danger is having your opponent sweat on you. The NHL players risk their lives and safety every shift. Tyler Seguin, Carey Price and Corey Perry are going to draw much, much more sympathy from fans than Jeremy Jacobs, Geoff Molson, and Henry Samueli, that’s just the way it is.

Before we all panic and start looking for fall entertainment that doesn’t involve NHL hockey, I honestly believe this is just a (completely moronic) opening position.

The Krejci for X discussions across the Boston sports scene have never been hotter. Bobby Ryan is the current most lusted for player, but moving him, even for a good return creates issues of who slides into what position.

As we all know by now Chiarelli’s lust for drafting small skilled forwards is as great as making moves for defenseman no ones ever heard of. The problem isn’t so much a question of do we have someone else who can play center but a question of who makes the most sense. If this is “a bridge year” it almost doesn’t matter who is the other pivot. If the team is in “win now” mode or at least wants fans and media to believe it is, then it might matter a touch more. Off ice issues will have to be weighed in as well.P

The case for moving Seguin to center and putting him between Lucic and Horton is one that will likely make the rounds. The problem is all three can be regarded as shoot first players. I don’t claim to be the worlds foremost mathematician, but three shooters (not counting the defensive pair) and one puck doesn’t add up to well. Another consideration is that Seguin has so far shown to be indifferent at faceoffs. Moving Bergeron to between the two big bodies would put the maximum amount of size in the top nine forwards together, and they did look good together for stretches last year.

Moving either is less than desirable for another reason. Together the Selke winning Patrice Bergeron flanked by Brad Marchand and Tyler Sequin were the most consistent line on the team all season. Given the departure of Benoit Pouliot and assuming Krejci is indeed traded they could be the only trio of the top three lines to return.

Chris Kelly played the best hockey of his career last year and did some of it with Milan Lucic to his left. He’s never held a top or second line role for long since arriving with the Bruins. The same can be said for Rich Peverley who’s played up and down the Bruins lineup. Peverley’s offensive upside is a little bit higher, but he’s also had more health and consistency issues over his career. Plugging him into the pivot slot between Lucic and Horton would certainly improve both the speed and defensive quality of the line. Peverley has averaged top line type minutes in his career, but mostly at wing and not center and in Claude Julien’s system the center position is the lynchpin of transition, defense and offense.

There are also the AHL players and Juniors graduates. Ryan Spooner’s hands have been compared to Marc Savard. I’ll leave that comparison alone for a half decade or so, but say that they are pretty damn slick. Size and adjusting to the NHL are questions 1 and 1a, speed, skating, passing aren’t in question.  Carter Camper and Max Sauve both earned time in Boston last year, both have played the pro game, both have done well. Sauve’s durability is issue number one, but like Spooner is an excellent passer and has a ready shot. Camper is also on the small side, but led the Providence Bruins in scoring despite the time he spent in Boston.

Also to be considered is new acquisition Christian Hanson who’s half season of NHL games is more than just about all his competition combined. At 6’4 and 222 he’s got size to spare over any of the other claimants. Then there is Alex Khoklachev. The skilled Russian is in the same size range as Spooner, Sauve and Camper. He signed his entry level deal at the recent Boston Bruins development camp, and also signed a deal that would will take him to the KHL. The KHL contract is for one year, to the club his father is the manager of. If however he makes the Boston Bruins out of camp he stays here in North America.

Another possibility is trading for a skilled center who can play about as well in similar ice time as Krejci. A team like the Edmonton Oilers could certainly use some better depth defense, and the looming arbitration date with Sam Gagner lowers the likelihood they will retain him after that date. The Panthers barely used Mike Santorelli last year, and he would come with a low cap hit.

Also to be considered is sliding Greg Campbell up to the third line and sliding in either a rookie, Hanson, or Whitfield into the Merlot line. Campbell has done well in a Bruins uniform managing the heavy grinding role of the fourth line and the smart penalty kill minutes and making it look easy.

I’m a bit baffled by some of the remaining free agents. As weak as this free agent class is, the number of useful players who haven’t either taken off for the KHL or signed with an NHL team is pretty surprising.

As likely the best center left Kyle Wellwood‘s unsigned status is just baffling. He had more points last season than any other remaining center, and had the third most points of any forwards remaining unsigned. The two ahead of him are Shane Doan and Alex Semin. Doan only beat him by three points and played two additional games, Semin who beat him by seven points. Based on total time on ice, with similar distributions, and having played in the same division last year Wellwood was more efficient than Semin in producing points picking up each point about half a minute quicker than Semin.

Brian Rolston after being traded to Boston at the deadline Rolston showed there’s still something left in the tank. Points in the first three playoff games, three multipoint games in the last month of the season, including a four point night. He clocked as many as 19:58 a night, and showed his versatility playing up and down the lineup in all three forward positions. He manned the point on the powerplay put in some shorthanded time and looked like he’d rolled the clock back a few years. He probably won’t command the same money as his last contract, but for teams like Colorado, Buffalo and Winnipeg who don’t have much playoff experience on the roster and have very young teams he could be that elder statesman that helps push a team over.

Daniel Winnik could help any of the several teams that desperately need to improve their penalty kill do so. His 2:44 of SHTOIG is tops among this UFA class, and he chipped in more than twenty points.

Michal Rosival is a right shooting defenseman, he played nearly 20 minutes a night for the Coyotes, at 33 he’s still in his prime. He gained ground on most shifts, and in the playoffs he picked up about two hits and two blocked shots per game.

Carlo Colaiacovo good corsi, probably can be had for under or about four million. Good points production and solid contribution in the playoffs. Former 1st round pick, and a solid sized body.

Matt Gilroy popped in twenty points on 17:30 a night. He split the season between the Senators and Lightning, good depth player who should come along fairly cheap and continue to grow.

Curtis Sanford he put up better numbers than several goalies who made it to the playoffs, for the Columbus Blue Jackets last year. He might not be a starter on some teams, but as a heavy use #2 he’s probably going to be one of the better goalies available.

There are a lot of things left to do this summer for some teams. A few still have not held their prospect camps. These camps do impact teams free agent movement, particularly for depth positions. Players who decide they will leave college early, or who might make the jump to the pros from juniors will impact signings from the NHL down through the AHL and ECHL as well.

3: Where do they all land? Big name bingo, will Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Jay Bouwmeester, and other of the rumored trade pieces actually be moved? Will the most notable injured players retire, return or linger in limbo? Even playing at a level reduced by age Chris Pronger would still be a big addition to the Flyers, Nathan Horton’s big body and heavy shot can do a lot to help the Boston Bruins powerplay, and Marian Hossa is an essential part of the Chicago Blackhawks. Then there are the free agents who will affect marketing, ticket sales, drafting, and of course winning and losing. Doan, Colaicavo, Semin, Selanne and the rest are each impact players who won’t cost anything but a contract and salary.

2: CBA In Play? The question of the new collective bargaining agreement is as currently positioned by both sides optimistic. As a fan, I’d feel more comfortable if they put together a formal agreement to continue for the next season with the current CBA even if they don’t reach a new one. What will the new agreement look like? Will it include some exceptions to the cap? Perhaps a catastrophic injury clause? Or the elimination of the +35 contract?

1: And now growth? With the Coyotes headed towards a final resolution in Glendale, and the Islanders looking like they might end up with an arena on Long Island, and the New Jersey Devils hoping to quash their financial drama, is it time to eye expansion? If expansion is the aim, and with teams like Carolina and and Nashville spending big in small markets, the time might be ripe, isn’t the iron hot now? Quebec City and Saskatchewan have expressed their desire to have teams north of the border. None of them would involve the nasty infighting among ownership that a second greater Toronto area team might. South of the border their are a lot of cities that make sense, the Houston, Tx area is the largest US metropolitan area without an NHL franchise, and with the Dallas market starting to produce NHL players and draftees a second team in a state with a population that compares to all of Canada’s, just make sense. Other much discussed locations include Seattle, Wa, Las Vegas, and Kansas City.

10: His agent is still trying to figure out how much he’s worth after seeing Dennis Wideman’s deal.

9: Teams are worried that they will lose advertising revenue during powerplays if they sign a 40 goal scorer who has netted 25% of his career goals on the man advantage.

8: General manages can’t tell him and Alex Radulov apart ’cause all those damn Russians look alike.

7: Marian Hossa and Nathan Horton’s complete recoveries are assured.

6: Flames ownership finally found out how many no movement clauses they have on the books.

5: Teams just don’t want to find out how many Semin jokes local media can shoot out in one season.

4: On the shady side of 40 with a +35 contract and having played all 82 games twice Ray Whitney isreally less risky.

3:  Front offices across the NHL are engaged in a bidding war for Jay Rosehill and will worry about fitting other players into the cap structure after they acquire his services.

2.8: Because it makes much more sense to fork over your top prospects, players off your roster and draft picks for a captain abandoning his team than to sign a player the same age at 65% of the salary who has a higher career points per game.

2: The NHL has declared he can’t be signed until labor negotiations either conclude or go nuclear so no one will pay attention to the double talk of the owners.

1: Marc Crawford’s wisdom on players is worth gold, he’s such a knowledgeable, coveted, and skilled head coach he’s…