|Milan Lucic: ‘I’ve never had a problem with my conditioning’||01.07.13 at 3:03 pm ET|
There were enough questions throughout the NHL lockout, but now that it’s been resolved, puck-heads are asking another: Are these guys in shape?
Players have had the last three months to spend however they wanted. Some played in Europe or the AHL, while many who couldn’t find work elsewhere stayed local. Milan Lucic, who got married over the summer, didn’t play anywhere during the lockout but did make appearances at practices organized by teammates, including Monday at Agganis Arena. There have been some murmurs about the power forward’s conditioning during the lockout, and Lucic does appear to have a little more to him these days.
Asked about his “aerobic health,” Lucic said that he won’t know exactly how prepared he is for games until he actually has to play in them. He noted the first day of training camp is always difficult for players, even if they’ve been skating every day.
“We’ll see,” Lucic said. “You’re never really in game shape until you’re playing games. For myself, I try to keep myself in shape, but we still have two weeks here of skating. I’ve never had a problem with my conditioning at any level, so I’ll be ready.”
Lucic said that he has stayed the same weight-wise. He was listed last season as being 228 pounds. With games less than two weeks away, he’s confident that he’ll be ready to go once the puck is dropped for the season.
“That cardio aspect of being in game-shape ‘¦ I think I heard [Steven] Stamkos on TSN yesterday say that you’re never really in game-shape unless you’re playing in games,” Lucic said. “We all feel the same way when it comes to that.”
|Andrew Ference thinks the NHLPA has come a long way||01.07.13 at 2:06 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who was present for the negotiations that led to the NHL and NHLPA’s new collective bargaining agreement, had a few interesting things to say over the course of the day Monday regarding how far the NHLPA has come as a union.
Making an appearance with Dennis & Callahan, Ference called hiring Donald Fehr to replace Paul Kelly “the smartest thing we’ve ever done,” but added, “Obviously I’m biased because I helped get rid of [Kelly].” Kelly was fired in 2009 amidst chatter that his play-at-all-costs line of thinking would hurt the players in CBA negotiations.
Then, following Monday’s informal skate at Agganis Arena, Ference was asked whether he felt Kelly would have gotten the players the same deal that Fehr did this weekend.
“No,” Ference said, straight-faced. “We’d be playing, I’m sure. I’m sure we wouldn’t have missed as much hockey and the league would have been salivating. That’s the blunt answer.”
Ference called Fehr “essential” and the “foundation of our entire union.” He said that Fehr’s presence as executive director strengthened the union where he felt it was weaker in the past, including the 2004-05 lockout (which had Bob Goodenow as the NHLPA executive director).
“Across the whole league, one of the most impressive things when you talked to guys was that it wasn’t just about keeping guys quiet — people actually believed in what we were doing,” Ference said. “That’s probably the biggest change from the last lockout, or even years past in the union. You could publicly have guys on the same page, but behind closed doors you might have different opinions. This time around, it was an extremely unified group that believed in what we were doing, and that starts from the top down.”
|Bruins gear up for training camp||01.07.13 at 1:18 pm ET|
With training camp a matter of days away, a group of Bruins players had some pep in their collective step at an informal practice Monday at Agganis Arena.
Present for the skate was Andrew Ference, Tyler Seguin, Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid and Gregory Campbell in addition to a group of local NHLers. McQuaid is still getting his strength back as he recovers from blood clot surgery, but he was taking wrist shots and slapshots Monday.
Seguin said after the skate that “words can’t describe” how much he’s missed the NHL.
“Just from hanging out with the guys, seeing everyone and obviously the game,” he added. “It’s been a long couple months.”
The third-year NHLer said that while he spent plenty of time during the lockout when it was going to be resolved, he also kept the fans in mind.
“I felt sorry [for them],” Seguin said. “I mean, I want to apologize for everything that happened, but hopefully we can move forward from here. Obviously we’re going to play our hearts out the next 48 games and play for the fans out there.”
|Shawn Thornton ‘pissed’ it took so long, but glad lockout’s over||01.06.13 at 10:22 pm ET|
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said Sunday night that he felt the lockout could have been resolved much sooner were it not for some of the league’s tactics. The Bruins’ enforcer was quick to point out that the terms of the new CBA are very similar to the players’ counter-offer to a take-it-or-leave-it proposal from the league in December, and that the league should have simply accepted it then.
“The settlement that we just made is almost identical to our counter-offer [in early December],” Thornton told WEEI.com. “It wasn’t us waiting. It was a lot of theatrics and a lot of blowing up and the NHL locking us out for another month to basically give us what we have now. I wouldn’t put that on the players.”
While Thornton is glad that hockey is back, he said he’s angry that the lockout lasted as long as it did. However, with the 113-day work stoppage in the rear-view mirror, he feels it’s important to take a more positive approach.
“I think the anger won’t help anything,” he said. “Was I pissed that it took that long? Yeah, of course I was. I mean, we missed half a season. That’s never fun. It was kind of pointless, but we are at this point either way, so let’s just focus on getting ready.”
Thornton also hinted that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr had something along the lines of what to expect in mind, and that the final deal was very similar to that.
“I’m glad he was on our side, let’s put it that way,” Thornton said of Fehr. “He pretty much predicted how it was going to go the whole way, and it was pretty bang-on.”
Asked then if Fehr had given the players an idea of what the final CBA would look like, Thornton backed off a bit and said that Fehr simply did a good job of keeping players at ease despite the uncertainty of the situation.
“I guess his patience and the way he delivered information to us kind of settled the masses and kept us strong the whole way through, that’s for sure,” Thornton said.
Though he was cautiously optimistic throughout the process, Thornton said he never ruled out the possibility of the league going through with canceling the season.
“We said [the season wouldn’t be cancelled] in 2004 when we lost the whole season,” he recalled. “Everyone was talking about, ‘We can’t be the first league to cancel a season, we can’t be the first league to cancel a season, we’re not strong enough,’ and then it was gone. I wasn’t putting anything past them.”
|How the new CBA impacts the Bruins||01.06.13 at 12:17 pm ET|
Three of the biggest issues in the weeks before the NHL and players agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement were the salary cap for the 2013-14 season, the issue of compliance buyouts and the maximum length of contracts. With all three being resolved in a season-saving CBA, here’s a quick look at what came about and how it affects the Bruins’ roster.
$64.3 million salary cap in 2013-14: The league was pushing hard for a $60 million cap, which would have forced the Bruins to deal away a player or three. As is, the Bruins have $57.3 million committed against the cap in the 2013-14 season, and that does not include any goalies. That would mean the B’s would have had to shed some cap space in order to sign Tuukka Rask, but the $64.3 million cap to which the league and players agreed will allow the Bruins enough space to sign Rask without having to do anything too drastic. Depending on what Rask commands, the team might have to make a tough decision or two, but it could have been much worse. $4.3 million worse, to be exact.
Rask is playing this season on a one-year, $3.5 million deal, a choice he made as a restricted free agent with the hope that putting together a strong full season as the team’s starting goalie would allow him to be better compensated. The shortened season already derailed those plans, but Rask could certainly boost his value with a big campaign for the B’s.
Two compliance buyouts: This likely will not impact the Bruins. Teams can buy out up to two players prior to the 2013-14 season without it going against their salary cap, but the Bruins honestly don’t have any bad contracts. Sure, Johnny Boychuk‘s deal raised eyebrows at the time for its $3.36 million cap hit, but it’s a sign that the B’s have spent wisely if that is their worst contract. Marc Savard (who will have four years left on his deal prior to the 2013-14 season with an annual $4.007 million cap hit) is not a candidate because teams cannot buy out injured players.
You want to talk about teams that will eat up these compliance buyouts? Start with the Canadiens. They should jump at the chance to shed Scott Gomez ($7.35 million cap hit) and Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 million).
Maximum contract length of seven years (eight for teams retaining their players): Well, it looks like the Bruins technically weren’t guilty of sneaky pre-CBA CBA circumvention (that’s an ugly sentence). The six-year, $34.5 million deal given to Tyler Seguin was the longest of three big deals they gave out before the lockout. Also inked to extensions prior to the expiration of the last CBA were Brad Marchand ($18 million over four years) and Milan Lucic ($18 million over three years).
Not that the Bruins were likely to do so, but this does mean that the Bruins won’t be able to give out a marathon of a contract like goalies such as Roberto Luongo (12 years) Jonathan Quick (10), Ilya Bryzgalov (nine) and yes, Rick DiPietro (15) have received over recent years.
|Andrew Ference ‘deeply sorry that we had to miss so much hockey’||01.06.13 at 9:19 am ET|
Between his humor and smarts, Andrew Ference is one of the more interesting professional athletes to follow on Twitter. Given that, it should come as no surprise that the Bruins defenseman, who was on hand for this weekend’s negotiations, celebrated the end of the lockout with both humor and a sincere apology for leaving so many without hockey.
Ference, an environmentalist who offsets his travel throughout the season’s impact by purchasing carbon credits, kicked things off with a simple thumbs up and later tweeted a picture of the assembled media in New York with a “Game on” caption before adding the following:
On a more serious note, the veteran blueliner expressed remorse over the 113-day lockout.
As players we can now do what we do best. Proudly pull on our jerseys and play with complete passion for our cities and fans. ‘ Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) January 6, 2013
I hope that we can replace the intense negativity brought on our sport with a reminder of how great it can be when the action is on the ice.
‘ Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) January 6, 2013
From my grandparents to our B’s fans, I am deeply sorry that we had to miss so much hockey. All we can do now is play our hearts out for you ‘ Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) January 6, 2013
|NHL, players agree tentatively to new CBA||01.06.13 at 6:46 am ET|
Mediator Scot Beckenbaugh should be every hockey fan’s favorite player this year, as Saturday’s talks between the NHL and NHLPA finally yielded a new collective bargaining agreement early Sunday morning, ending the league’s lockout.
“We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement,” commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters early Sunday morning. “I want to thank [NHLPA executive director] Don Fehr. We still have more work to do, but it’s good to be at this point.”
The deal was struck after both sides some final moves off their previous stances. The owners moved on the maximum length of contracts and the 2013-14 salary cap, while the players moved from their stance on the length of the CBA to meet the owners.
According to TSN, the details of the new CBA include a 10 year length with an opt-out clause that begins after eight years, contracts no longer than seven years (or eight for a team signing its own player) and a $64.3 million salary cap for the 2013-14 season. Also included in the new CBA is a revamped draft lottery, as all non-playoff teams have at least a chance at the first overall pick. Previously, the most teams could move up was four spots.
TSN reports that the league has both 48-game and 50-game schedules drawn up that will be played depending on when the new CBA is finalized.