The NHL labor talks are not going so well

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The NHL labor talks are not going so well

From Comcast SportsNet
TORONTO (AP) -- The wide gap that existed in labor talks between the NHL and NHL Players' Association was hardly bridged on Wednesday, a day after the union presented its counterproposal and with the threat of a lockout now only a month away. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the two sides are "still apart, far apart," and "not on the same page," in making his first public comments since having a chance to read through the NHLPA's offer. Adding that he was "a little disappointed" that the union has yet to present its full proposal, Bettman said the league isn't even at the point of making a counteroffer. "I think there are still a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently," Bettman said, after the two sides met for about an hour at the NHLPA headquarters in Toronto. "So there's still a wide gap between us, and not much time to go." NHLPA executive director Don Fehr described the gap between the two sides as "a pretty substantial monetary gulf." But he placed the blame on the NHL for creating the gap in the first place with the cutbacks in salary and limitations placed on free agency the league made in its initial offer last month. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, and the NHL has already warned that it will lock out its players if a new deal is not reached by then. The NHL regular season is set to open Oct. 11. Bettman's response to the NHLPA's proposal and the large gap that remains between the two sides is regarded as a significant setback. That considerably raises fears that the NHL could be headed for its fourth labor dispute in 20 years. That's a timeframe that includes the 2004-05 season which was wiped out entirely by a lockout; and dates to April 1, 1992, when a 10-day players' strike led to 30 games being postponed and rescheduled. Bettman was pleased that the union, in its proposal, stuck to the framework of a cap system and acknowledged the league has economic issues that need to be addressed. The problem was the union didn't entirely satisfy those concerns from the owners' perspective. "What the issues are and how they get solved and how deep the issues go is something we're not yet on the same page," Bettman said. Fehr disagreed by saying the union made significant concessions and addressed the league's concerns. The trouble was, he said, the union's proposal wasn't what the NHL asked for. "It's not a circumstance in which the players are just going to say, OK, take everything from us,'" Fehr said. "That's basically what it was: You had a 24 percent reduction last time, so let's have another one.' That was their proposal. That's what created the gulf." Under the league's proposal, Fehr said, players' salaries would be scaled back to the level they were before the previous lockout. Fehr also disagreed with Bettman's suggestion that the union has not presented its full proposal. He said the NHL has "almost everything" except for certain player contract issues that are tied to economics. He said the union is considering addressing those issues next week. Though talks on a sub-committee level are scheduled to continue, Bettman and Fehr won't return to the table until next week. Fehr is leaving negotiations to meet with players in both Chicago and Kelowna, British Columbia, to update them on talks. Fehr did say he will stay in touch with Bettman by phone. The union's counterproposal stood in stark contrast to what the NHL made in its initial proposal a month earlier. The NHLPA proposed a deal in which players would give up as much 465 million in revenue if the league's overall revenue continues to grow at an average rate over the first three years of the deal. Fehr indicated that number could balloon to 800 million if the league grows at the same rate it has over the past two seasons. Players would then have the option in the fourth year to revert to the current system, in which they receive between 54 and 57 percent of league revenues. The union also proposed that the NHL commit money to a revenue-sharing system to help struggling teams. Fehr described the players' offer as one that could stabilize the industry. The NHL's initial proposal placed much of the burden on its players. The league is seeking another 24 percent cut in player revenue and the introduction severe limits to free agency. That includes players waiting 10 years to be eligible to become unrestricted free agents, as opposed to seven in the current deal, and eliminating players' rights to salary arbitration. Bettman noted that players in other major sports, such as the NFL and the NBA, agreed to reduce their revenue share in new deals that have been struck over the past year. Fehr said it's unfair to make those comparisons. And he questioned why Bettman didn't mention major league baseball, which has revenue sharing among teams, doesn't have a cap system and has enjoyed labor peace.

Caps look to last year's loss to Rangers for confidence against Penguins

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Caps look to last year's loss to Rangers for confidence against Penguins

Down 3-1 in their best-of-seven series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps know they have a tough hill to climb if they hope to avoid another second round exit. Not many teams have been able to overcome a 3-1 deficit, but the Caps are finding confidence from an unexpected source: last year's playoffs.

Not only did the Capitals hold a 3-1 series lead over the New York Rangers, they came within 1:41 of winning the series before the Rangers tied Game 5 and eventually stunned the Caps in seven games.

"We're in a reverse situation last year where we, Game 5, we had a team that basically pretty well down and out," head coach Barry Trotz said, "and they threw a puck to the net and it hits one of our defenseman, goes in and they end up winning in overtime and that sort of changed it."

Now that the Caps find themselves on the other end of the 3-1 deficit, they are drawing on that experience as a guide for how to climb back against the Penguins.

"It's a very similar situation," Braden Holtby said. "I think we're up 3-1 last year against the Rangers and it could have been 3-1 the other way. Same as this year. It could be 3-1 in our favor pretty easily. A couple breaks go the other way so in realizing that, you can take a page out of what the Rangers did and stuck with what they were doing last year."

RELATED: TROTZ LOOKS TO SPARK OFFENSE BY SWITCHING UP OFFENSIVE LINES

It's a lesson Washington has struggled with over its history.

In the Bruce Boudreau era when the Caps developed a reputation as a team that could not win when it mattered, the players routinely abandoned the gameplan whenever they began to struggle. That's a mistake Trotz is determined to prevent the Caps from repeating again.

"We have to find another way to not really reinvent the game but just execute better, be a little sharper," Trotz said. "We get a chance to score, we've got to bury our chances. Those are the things that matter and then we've got to stay with it."

With their win in Game 5, the Rangers stole the momentum and suddenly the Caps began to feel the pressure in a series that had seemed well in hand. The lesson is clear: one win is all it takes to change a series.

"It can spiral pretty quick," Tom Wilson said. "When your'e the team that's up 3-1, you lose the game tomrrow night, it's 3-2 then we steal another one. It's not like we're down 8-1 in the series. ... It's the first team to four and they're only at three."

"We've got to have a belief that you win one, win the first period, keep going and if you win one, then things can change," Trotz said. "I mean we were prime candidates to see it first hand in the Rangers series last year so, hopefully all we can do is look at the game in front of us and go from there."

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ: CAPS NEED MORE PRODUCTION FROM 'CERTAIN GUYS'

Ravens assign jersey numbers, Ronnie Stanley to wear No. 79

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Ravens assign jersey numbers, Ronnie Stanley to wear No. 79

OWINGS MILLS -- For football jersey lovers, the Ravens have assigned numbers to their 11 draft picks. They are as follows:

6 – WR Keenan Reynolds

43 – CB Tavon Young

48 – RB Kenneth Dixon

49 – CB Maurice Canady

51 – OLB Kamalei Correa

72 – OT Alex Lewis

79 – OT Ronnie Stanley

81 – WR Chris Moore

91 – OLB Matt Judon

92 – DE Bronson Kaufusi

Correa will be wearing the number worn by former Ravens inside linebacker Daryl Smith, who signed with the Buccaneers this offseason. Kaufusi will wear the number once worn by former Ravens Pro Bowl tackle Haloti Ngata.

Four more draft picks sign with Ravens, raising total to six

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Four more draft picks sign with Ravens, raising total to six

OWINGS MILLS -- The Ravens announced the signing of four more draft picks Friday -- OLB Kamalei Correa, DT Willie Henry, OT Alex Lewis, and WR Chris Moore.

That meant six of the 11 Ravens’ 11 draft picks were under contract at the start of Friday’s two-day rookie minicamp. OLB Matt Judon and RB Kenneth Dixon had already signed.

Correa was drafted in the second round, the first of three players the Ravens targeted to improve their pass rush. Lewis, a fourth-rounder, is expected to compete for a backup spot at either tackle position. Moore is a deep threat wide receiver who has a chance to earn immediate playing time. Henry is a run-stopping defensive lineman who has a chance to be part of the defensive tackle rotation.

First-round pick, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, still had not signed as of early Friday afternoon. However, first-round signings traditionally take the longest.

The Ravens also announced the signing of 11 undrafted free agents:

G Jarell Broxton, Baylor

DT Travon Coley, Florida Atlantic

C Anthony Fabiano, Harvard

ILB  Cavellis Luckett, Middle Tennessee St.  

K Will Lutz, Georgia St.

OT Stephane Nembot, Colorado

OLB Victor Ochi, Stony Brook

OLB Mario Ojemudia, Michigan

ILB Patrick Onwuasor, Portland St.

DT Michael Pierce, Samford

C Matt Skura, Duke