Dec 31, 2011; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jochen Hecht (55) during a game against the Ottawa Senators at the First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

My Two Cents: NHL still no closer to new CBA; Free Agents Still Available; bye bye Nitty, Bartolo


My Two Cents for August 27th:

June 4, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; A general view of the ice surface before game three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals between the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

At Least They Are Talking-  The CBA talks have continued in Toronto throughout the last week. However, a few of the sessions ended early and with the NHLPA and the owners no closer to a new CBA. The status is truthfully no different than it was a week ago. Both sides seem just as far apart with seven more days off of the calendar and no signs of any agreement or compromise in sight. The longer that NHLPA Union Leader Donald Fehr and Commissioner Gary Bettman take to hammer out an agreement or at least an extension, the more likely we will see a player lockout come the morning of September 16th. The good news is at least the two sides are still talking despite being far apart in their negotiations or even their philosophies. But for how long? Usually when both sides are this far apart it is hard to determine where the common ground really is and to even establish that would take time. Unless they have some common ground already established, this can mean a long process for a new CBA. With the owners and Bettman warning of a lockout if no agreement is reached by the September 15th deadline, it’s looking more like the start of the season will be delayed. This will mean ultimately that every team will lose revenue and the league will take another hit as it will become apparent that the lessons which should have been learned eight years ago simply were forgotten and did not stick. At the risk of being redundant, here is a recap of the issues:

The Issues Revisited- What the owners want is a proposal where the players’ share in revenue would be cut from 57 per cent to 46 per cent and would include a change to the way the salary cap is calculated. Instead of being set at $8 million above the midpoint, the upper limit would be reduced to $4 million above resulting in the salary cap dropping to $50.8 million next season, or well below where it is presently set at. Additionally, the league also wants to get rid of salary arbitration and limit contracts to a maximum of five years with the salary being equal throughout the duration of each contact (i.e. the elimination of signing bonuses and ending Ryan Suter and Zach Parise type deals). Also, the league wants players to agree to 10 years of service in the league before they can qualify for free agency. The NHLPA on the other hand really wants nothing to do with this proposal. NHLPA leader Donald Fehr wants instead a revenue sharing plan that would allow for struggling franchises to get some financial relief while allowing current players to not give up much of what they already are enjoying.

 

Nov 7, 2011; San Jose, CA, USA; Detailed view of a hockey puck on the ice before the game between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Los Angeles 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

What Needs To Happen- If the season is going to start on time October 11th, then obviously both sides are going to have to give in a some point. To do that, both sides need to put away their egos and start acting like businessmen. At the end of the day, this is a business. All they have to do is look back to the NBA’s problems last year. The NBA did finally reach an agreement though it cost them a quarter of the regular season and a watered down revised schedule. Though not a fan of the NBA myself, the product was much more watered down than normal. To a fan of the NBA, even the die hard fans were happy to have the product back though most agreed it wasn’t quite the same. If the NHL wants to avoid this, and they should at all costs, both sides start needing to identify areas where they do agree. From there, they need to build some level of trust and agree to meet in the middle on some issues, and maybe agree to disagree on a few others. If the games go away or even on a temporary hiatus, not only does the league suffer but also the players, owners, season ticket holders and even the economy of the cities who have NHL franchises. The economy both in the United States and Canada is already bad enough, a stoppage here will hurt 30 more cities which are already all hurting without this.

If the two sides can find common ground items which are mutually agreeable, it should not be that difficult to hammer out an acceptable agreement or at least agree to extend the talks to where the season can be played without disruption or being shortened. Right now though I would be worried just to the point that the two sides seem to be playing chicken and seeing which side flinches or blinks first. This is why the egos need to be checked at the door. If you are too busy trying to push across something while vilifying the side that you are negotiating with, it creates a somewhat hostile environment where it would be next to impossible for both sides to come to agreement, let alone even come to the table. One thing is for certain, as the talks move back to New York this week all eyes will be on Bettman and Fehr as the CBA deadline approaches. When you consider the present Commissioner was willing to allow the 2004-05 season to go by the boards, you cannot help but be a little squeamish about Bettman presiding over this situation. The Commissioner is going to get his cut whether or not their is a season, and the last time we saw the league this far apart on a CBA, Bettman played Nero. Nero fiddled away while Rome burned down. Bettman fiddled away while the NHL lost both a season and a number of fans in doing something that never had been done previously in professional sports. We can only pray at this point that this won’t happen again.

Antero Niittymaki Exits Sharks for Finland- Antero Niittymaki, who’s brief two year career with the Sharks organization was stalled by injuries and being beat out for the number one job in net by Antti Niemi, officially ended his stay with team teal this past week. Niittymaki signed with the club where he began his professional career, taking a one year deal with TPS Turku. Niittymaki in his career with the Sharks was 12-7-0 and played in 24 regular season games. A hip injury kept Niittymaki off of the Sharks roster last season. Once he was able to play, Niittymaki split time in the AHL with the Worcester Sharks before being loaned to the Syracuse Crunch. Niittymaki was signed by the Sharks before the 2010-11 season to a two year, $4 million dollar contract. The terms of his contract with TPS Turku were not released.

May 7, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Andrei Kostitsyn (46) looks on during the first period in game five of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Free Agents Still On The Market for Team Teal- If the Sharks are still looking towards any unrestricted free agents whom still are available, there are a few that despite having some wear on the tires still can provide some depth and experience which could help team teal in the upcoming 2012-13 season. Forward Andrei Kostitsyn (Montreal, Nashville) is one. Kostitsyn last season scored 16 goals and had 20 assists, while compiling only 10 minutes of time in the penalty box. Arguably his only real mistake last year may have come in the playoffs versus Phoenix when he hung out with now former Predator and career KHL’er Alex Radulov who thought curfew wasn’t until 5am on a game day. Aside from that, he could make a decent one year signing and probably do so at a reduced price that if done right will have minimal impact on the cap. Kostitsyn has 103 career goals in seven NHL seasons.

Another unrestricted free agent available is forward Jason Arnott (St Louis). Arnott, 37, has 19 NHL seasons under his belt and has been on a Stanley Cup winning team (New Jersey 1999-2000 season). In his career, Arnott has 417 goals in over 1200 NHL games played. Granted, Arnott is not exactly 21 anymore. However, last season in St Louis he played in 72 games while netting 17 goals and 17 more assist. Again, this would be a player that despite the miles on his career can add some depth as well as veteran presence and leadership. Arnott has played at least over 60 or more games in the last 10 NHL seasons. His veteran presence last year was part of the reason the Blues had the success they had as they rose from near the bottom of the Western Conference to a bonafide Stanley Cup contender. If the Sharks are willing to spend cap room to get Arnott, he may very well be worth it. Arnott made $2.5 million last season in St Louis.*

April 13, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Holmstrom (96) congratulates his teammates after defeating the Nashville Predators in game two of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena. The Red Wings defeated the Predators 3 to 2 to even the series at one win each. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-US PRESSWIRE

Another unrestricted free agent forward is Tomas Holmstrom who has spent his entire NHL career with the rival Detroit Red Wings. Holmstrom at 39 is certainly not anyone’s spring chicken at this point of his career. Again, you are looking at age, miles and occasional injury problems. That said, Holmstrom commands a veteran presence and a championship pedigree that few can match. Holmstrom has been on four Stanley Cup champions, and loves to create traffic in front of the oppositions net where he can wreak some havoc. The opposing goalie has much to think about when Holmstrom is on the ice has he gets many goals as the result of redirected shots or tip-ins. In over 1000 career NHL games, Holmstrom has 243 NHL goals and 287 assists. Even in the NHL’s lockout year of 2004-05, Holmstrom netted 40 more goals for Luleå HF in the Sweedish Hockey League.

Holmstrom’s cap hit in Detroit last season was 1.875 million*, so you have to figure at this stage of his career he can be brought in for around $1.5 million and give the Sharks another “go to” option on the ice. Again, though not cheap it may very well be worth the signing especially if he can be healthy around playoff time where his presence will be needed and felt by both the Sharks and their opposition the most.

Forward Jochen Hecht (Buffalo) is another unrestricted free agent that has a great deal of NHL experience that could add stronger depth for team teal. Hecht in 12 NHL seasons has 181 career goals and still may have some good years left at age 35. The downside here is two fold, one is that Hecht has been plagued by injuries and played only 22 games last season. The other issue may be salary cap as Hecht made $3.5 million with the Sabres last season.* If healthy though,

Hecht can be an effective team player on the third line and give the Sharks more veteran presence. If the Sharks were to go this route, and Hecht can remain healthy, he may be worth the time and investment.

Of course, there also is Shane Doan who is still a free agent. It is still not clear where Doan will ultimately end up, but the cost to spring Doan from the “Valley of the Sun” is $30 million and a guaranteed four year commitment. The only reason Doan may have not already signed with the Coyotes is two fold, one being that the franchise as of this date is still in flux. It is not known if they will be in Phoenix this season or after this season (in all likelihood, the Coyotes will be in Phoenix for at least the 2012-13 season). If the franchise moves, Doan may not want to move with them. The other reason is probably the same reason so many other deals are not done yet, everyone is waiting to see what happens with the CBA. Once the CBA is settled (and hopefully very soon), all the other dominoes will start to fall including Doan’s decision. If Doan were to sign with the Sharks, it would give team teal the roster boost it needs to maybe get them back to being a serious Cup contender. However, it would be pricey and the Sharks would have to do some cap maneuvering to make this work.

 

August 18, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (21) pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the fourth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Non-Hockey Items: Bye Bye Bartolo- One week after the Bay Area baseball scene was rocked by the 50 game suspension of (soon the be former) San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, MLB came down hard again, this time on Oakland A’s starting pitcher and major league veteran Bartolo Colon. Colon, who won 10 games for the green and gold, was suspended for testing positive for testosterone. Colon took his punishment like a man, but again this leaves a slight stain on the Oakland A’s season. However, the bigger stain between the two may be Cabrera as he was an everyday player. Cabrera was a decent outfield and led the National League in average at the time of his suspension on August 14th, while Colon as a starting pitcher only plays every fifth day baring injury. Colon would be easier to replace only because the A’s have a quality farm team in Sacramento where as the Giants farm team in Fresno has a more sparse supply of quality players who are major league ready. However, just as the Giants should never take back Cabrera under any circumstance, one size has to fit all. Colon should never be taken back by the Oakland A’s, though at this stage of his career he would likely just retire anyway. Colon in time will be forgotten, where as Cabrera will go down along with Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez as players who career marks will always carry an asterisk.

Lance Armstrong Controversy- Cyclist Lance Armstrong meanwhile gave up his fight against the USADA who has accused him of illegally doping to gain an unfair advantage in all of his seven Tour De France races for which he won titles. Armstrong was stripped if his seven titles this week after he announced he was no longer going to fight the allegations made by the USADA. I don’t know a whole lot about the Tour de France per see, but my first thought with Armstrong is that he beat cancer. I do not know if anything he took helped him to get the disease under control, but if it did than that’s what he needed to do. I do not condone anything that may have been either wrong or illegally, but a man’s life has to come first. As for the Tour de France, it’s just another thing that has become even more irrelevant because of this. I would rather watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest on the Fourth of July than spend even a wasted moment watching the Tour de France.

Neil Armstrong, An American Hero- This past Sunday we lost an American Icon with the passing of former astronaut Neil Armstrong. Armstrong as we all know was the first man to set foot on the moon in commanding the successful Apollo 11 mission in July of 1969. Armstrong in addition was also an aerospace engineer, U.S. Navy pilot, test pilot, and a professor at the University of Cincinnati after he retired from NASA. He was a man amongst men that was as humble of a human being as there was. He never did the autograph shows or other such things because that was not what he was about. He knew the space program was much bigger than one individual and never gave way to that philosophy. That was probably one of the reasons he called the Apollo 11 mission “One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind” just before stepping on the moon’s surface. Being eight years old at the time, my family along with many others watched as history was made. Rest in peace to Mr Armstrong, a true American Hero.

…Just My Two Cents…

The King Shark

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PS: *The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect on any other staff member’s opinions with Blades Of Teal, Fansided or their websites themselves… The King Shark…

*-source: Cap Geek.com

 

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