A grim update on the NHL lockout

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A grim update on the NHL lockout

From Comcast SportsNetDie-hard hockey fans might need to invest in some classic NHL games on DVD.It might be the only taste of hockey for months.There's no telling when the NHL lockout will end, especially when neither the league nor the NHLPA has committed to face-to-face negotiations to end the labor unrest. There were no formal talks Sunday on the first day of the lockout, the league's fourth shutdown since 1992, including a year-long dispute that forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season when the league successfully held out for a salary cap.And there are no formal talks planned.The league issued a statement to fans on its website that it was "committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the players and to the 30 NHL teams."The clock is ticking and there's no new collective bargaining agreement in sight. The league could start to announce this week the cancellation of preseason games and there's little chance training camps will open on time. The regular season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but that obviously is in peril.Day 1 of the lockout could serve as a preview for the next several cold months: Empty rinks, empty talk."This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room," the league said. "The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans."Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog were among the players participating in an NHLPA video to fans that was posted on YouTube. With black-and-white photos of each player as a backdrop, they talked about how much the game meant to them, and thanked fans for their support."We understand the people that suffer the most are the fans," Crosby said.Some players won't wait for labor talks to pick up -- they've already packed up.As of Sunday morning, all NHL players were free to speak to other leagues. Many will land in Russia's KHL, and two big names already signed. Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar agreed to deals with Metallurg. More will surely follow.Malkin, a 26-year-old center with the Penguins, is the NHL's reigning MVP. The 38-year-old Gonchar is a defenseman who helped lead the Senators to the playoffs last season.Although the club provided no further details of their contracts, it said that they would comply with KHL regulations on signing NHL players during the lockout. Under these rules, KHL teams can sign a maximum of three NHL players above their limit of 25.The KHL also sets the ceiling for the salaries of NHL players at a maximum of 65 percent of what they earn under their NHL deals. Malkin has two years and 16.5 million remaining on his deal with Pittsburgh. Gonchar has one year and 5.5 million left with Ottawa.Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell are part owners of a team in the Finnish league. Timonen, a father of three children, said it would be hard to immediately consider playing overseas unless the entire season was wiped out. But Timonen returned to his native Finland to play in 2004, and clearly understands why some young players are interested in finding a roster spot in Europe."A lot of young guys are asking if there's a spot to play," he said. "I'm sure our team can take a few of the guys, but not many."Many of the players, 25 years and younger, could end up in the AHL, the NHL's primary minor league. No matter where they play, the players are prepared for a lengthy wait to return to the NHL.The core issue is money -- how to split a 3.3 billion pot of revenue. The owners want to decrease the percentage of hockey-related revenue that goes to players, while the union wants a guarantee that players annually get at least the 1.8 billion in salaries paid out last season.While the NHL lockout might not destroy the whole season -- like in 2004-05 -- a sizable chunk of games could be lost without any productive talks on tap."I'm sure we will remain in contact," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "But there are no negotiations planned or scheduled at this point."Teams are prepared for the likelihood the season will not start on time. And so they are making economic plans on several fronts. At the end of each month, for instance, the Buffalo Sabres will refund any games that are canceled by the NHL.The Minnesota Wild, meanwhile, fresh off a free-agent spending spree that landed them forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Sutter, will send out ticket policies on Monday."We support the league's position and trust our NHL negotiating team is looking out for the long-term interests of the game," the Wild said in a statement. "Even as NHL games may be missed, the Wild will continue to support the great sport of hockey at all levels through our grass roots partnerships with amateur hockey associations."Minnesota defenseman Steven Kampfer was fired up to report for training part in part to see what it would look like to have those prized free agents -- Parise and Suter -- in uniform to ignite a franchise that missed the playoffs last season."It was going to be really exciting to see our lineup with those two acquisitions," Kampfer said. "I guess we'll just have to wait a little longer."Parise and Suter signed on the same day in July as the Wild made a statement to the rest of the league that they wanted to be true players in the Western Conference. But that will have to wait."It's a frustration situation to go through because you never want a work stoppage," Kampfer said. "But we're trying to fight for what's fair for both the owners and players. Everybody wants more money. The owners want to keep more of their profits and the players want their fair share of the profits. As players, we have full confidence that (NHLPA executive director) Donald Fehr will do his job to get us the best deal that he can."For now, most teams seem to be stable financially. The cancellation of games may change that, but for the time being, the panic button has not been pushed. Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan, for example, said the team has no plans on layoffs "at this time."In jeopardy are some key dates on the calendar: the New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic at 115,000-seat Michigan Stadium between the host Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs; and the Jan. 27 All-Star game hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the league's struggling small-market teams.The Blue Jackets put out a statement Sunday supporting the league, but did not mention the All-Star game."The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible," the team said. "We owe it to each other, to the game, and most of all, to the fans."NHL players struck in April 1992, causing 30 games to be postponed. This marks the third lockout under Commissioner Gary Bettman. The 1994-95 lockout ended after 103 days and the cancellation of 468 games."Like any partnership, you want both sides to benefit," Crosby said in the video. "I think that's the case here. As players we want to play."But we also know what's right, what's fair."

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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign.

The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.

Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.

Today's move: Re-signing Marcus Johansson

Just one year after going all the way through the arbitration process, the Caps and Marcus Johansson looked poised to do it all over again this summer.

Johansson tallied 46 points in 2015-16, just one point shy of the 47 he posted the season before. No doubt he sees himself as a top-six player, but he will likely find himself playing wing on the third line. So for the second year, the Caps had a different value of Johansson than what he could find on the open market.

Both sides began talking seriously on the day of the hearing, howver, and Johansson agreed to a three-year deal worth $13.75 million which carries a yearly cap hit of $4.583 million.

RELATED: ORLOV, CAPITALS REMAIN IN TOUCH

“I'm just happy we could figure it out in the end,” Johansson said after narrowly avoiding arbitration. “To be able to be part of this team for three more years, that's important to me. I think both parties are happy with it. There's obviously the cap in the NHL and you have to find a way to stay under it and we finally came to the agreement that made both parties happy.”

Johansson is one of the most polarizing figures in the organization when it comes to the fans. There are two main reasons for this. First, when he first came into the NHL, he was touted as the solution to the Caps’ hole at center on the second line.

Did he live up to that billing? No. Johansson was not able to cement himself in that position—proving to be more effective as a winger than a center—and joined a long line of failed “solutions” for the position including Brooks Laich, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro, Jason Arnott, Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger and Michael Nylander.

The second reason Johansson is so heavily criticized is his perceived lack of physicality. While it would be fair to say that the physical aspect of the game has never been his strong suit, it would also be fair to say Johansson was noticeably more physical in 2015-16 than we had previously seen. No one is going to mistake him for Tom Wilson, but he at least showed improvement.

In terms of production, Johansson has proven himself to be a 40+ point player with 44, 47 and 46 points in his last three seasons. With Jason Chimera’s departure, Johansson is now most likely the fastest player on the team. As speed is so important in today’s NHL, that certainly ups Johansson’s value.

Johansson was also one of the few players willing to screen and crash the net this season, one of the few noticeable weaknesses of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Caps team. Again, that is not his strongest suit, but it should be noted that he was at least willing to fight for the dirty goals.

Grade: B+

Yes, I know this one is going to spark some disagreement.

Johansson may not be Washington’s favorite player, but he does clearly provide the Caps with speed and offensive production. The fact that he can also play wing and center is also a valuable asset. When Jay Beagle was out with injury last season, Johansson played well in his place at third line center. That kind of flexibility brings value that most NHL players do not.

Let’s also consider where the team stands and what Johansson’s role will be next season. The Caps are in it to win it. With several contracts expiring and several prospects nearly ready to become full-time NHL players, this team may look very different next year meaning this may be the last year that championship window is open for Washington.

With that in mind, the Caps need players who provide value now. Johansson most likely will play wing on the third line next season. Even his staunchest critics have to admit that having talent like that on the third line is an asset.

Does it come with a hefty price tag? Perhaps. When comparing his contract to other players with a comparable cap hit, Johansson’s production is a bit underwhelming. Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers is signed through 2019 with a $4.5 million cap hit and tallied 59, 49 and 61 points over the last three seasons. Clearly Johansson does not stack up to that comparable.

The Caps were not going to walk away from Johansson in the offseason, however, because there is zero benefit to walking away from a player of his caliber for nothing in return. Of course they were going to re-sign him because it would have been foolish not to.

Is his cap hit a bit high? Yes, but Brian MacLellan was able to sign him and still add Lars Eller and Brett Connolly while keeping the rest of the roster largely intact.

Plus, his contract is not immovable if they decide to move on after this season. Johansson has a modified no-trade clause after the first season of the deal, but he can only name five teams in which he does not wish to be traded. It also does not offer him automatic protection in next year’s expansion draft.

With the Caps still gunning for the Stanley Cup, this team is better for having a player like Johansson on the third line. If after this season the team decides his value is greater as a trade asset, then moving him becomes an option thanks to his multi-year deal. For now, however, it makes all the sense in the world to have a player like Johansson back for at least one more run at a championship.

MORE CAPITALS: GRADING THE MOVES: CAPS FIND OFFENSIVE DEPTH WITH ELLER

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Former Wizards' draft pick arrested on assault and drug charges; AK-47 found

Former Wizards' draft pick arrested on assault and drug charges; AK-47 found

Former Wizards' draft pick Glen Rice Jr. was arrested in in Georgia on July 25 on charges of felony robbery, aggravated battery and marijuana possession.

On Friday, new details were released on what took place and it does not look good for the oft-troubled son of former NBA star Glenn Rice.

According to the police report obtained by TMZ.com, Rice Jr. got into a an altercation with former Tulane basketball player Jordan Callahan in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store.  A fight between the two broke out, with Callahan reportedly suffering a broken jaw and being left in a pool of his own blood.  

A witness told police they saw Rice Jr. flee the scene on foot with two bags. Police found the two bags — containing an AK-47 assault rifle and a Taurus .38 special — hidden underneath nearby leaves. When the cops arrested Rice, they found him in possession of roughly $2,700 in cash and six cell phones.

Rice Jr., who was drafted by the Wizards with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was suspended three times during his short career at Georgia Tech before being dismissed from the program following a DUI arrest in 2012. He then spent a season in the NBA D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being drafted by the Wizards. 

He appeared in just 16 games in two seasons before being released by the team in January 2015, two months after he was shot in the leg at an Atlanta-area restaurant. Rice Jr. was charged with reckless conduct and possession of marijuana.

RELATED: WHY DID BRADLEY BEAL PASS ON THE OLYMPICS?

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DeSean Jackson on 2016 Redskins: Nobody believes in us. We don't really care

DeSean Jackson on 2016 Redskins: Nobody believes in us. We don't really care

RICHMOND - DeSean Jackson streaked down the right sideline, Josh Norman running with him in close step. Then, suddenly, Jackson planted his feet, cut in toward the hashmarks and veered away from the Redskins new $75 million cornerback. Within seconds, Kirk Cousins fired a pass to a location that the speed receiver grabbed out of the air. It was offensive precision.

Sure, that was only a training camp drill in July, but it also served as a reminder to how dangerous Jackson can be. With arguably the NFL's best corner from 2015 covering him, D-Jax showed his unique blend of vertical speed and lateral quickness. And though he wouldn't say it, Jackson has a track record of strong performances against the NFL's best secondaries, which could mean many more spirited practice matchups against Norman.

"We're here to get better and make each other better," Jackson said Thursday of the drills against Norman. "It's always a great addition to have a guy like him."

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During the 1-on-1 drills, Jackson and Norman talked back and forth, and the wideout explained that was "a little bit of fun, talking, kind of communicating, going back and forth."

Bringing in Norman could help a Redskins defense that struggled at times last season. Depending on the metric, Washington's defense ranked as mediocre (17th in points allowed) or bad (28th in yards allowed). An improved defense, to go along with an offense that looked explosive late in the 2015 season, could mean a much improved Washington squad.

"Pushing for another year to hopefully redeem the [2015] NFC East championship. We have a lot of work to do," Jackson said. "We got a lot of good stuff started, we just got to continue to build."

Building for Jackson could mean better health, after a 2015 season where he started just nine games. Remember Jackson injured himself in training camp last year in a bizarre incident where he hit a blocking sled before a more severe hamstring injury Week 1. It's also worth noting that Jackson enters 2016 in the final year of his Redskins contract.

"You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you get," he said. "That's regardless of your last year or your first year."

Asked what the team can accomplish this season, Jackson explained that while last year was a good start, it was far from any ultimate goals.

"We got to the playoffs and lost the first game. No one is really happy about that," Jackson said. "We feel like we have a lot to prove still. Nobody believes in us, we don’t really care. We believe in ourselves, we're the ones putting in the work."