Bettman on lockout: 'I feel terrible about it'

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Bettman on lockout: 'I feel terrible about it'

Drawing comparisons to the salary cap models of the NBA and NFL, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear again on Thursday that unless players are willing to take a reduction in salaries there will be a lockout at midnight on Saturday.

Given the fact the leagues players have stood firm on their stance of not participating in salary rollbacks, the NHL appears headed for its second work stoppage in eight years.

Listen, nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do, OK? Bettman told reporters after receiving unanimous support in a two-hour meeting with the NHLs Board of Governors.

This is what I do. This is what my life is about in terms of how I spend most of my waking hours. This is very hard and I feel terrible about it.

Saying the NHL can not afford a system in which players receive 57 percent of the leagues 3.3 billion in hockey-related revenues, Bettman said he is willing to meet NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr anytime, any place to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But it wont come until the players agree to a reduction in salaries.

In the NFLs 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players share of revenue starts at 47 percent and increases to 48.5 percent in the final year of 2021. In the NBAs CBA, also 10 years, the players share begins at 49 percent and increases to 51 percent in 2021.

The players in those two other leagues recognized that it was not inappropriate or unfair to reduce what they were getting, Bettman said. And thats in a challenging and recent economic climate.

In his most recent six-year proposal, Bettman called for the players share of revenue to decrease from its current 57 percent to 49 percent this season and gradually decreasing to 47 percent in the final year.

The players most recent proposal based on a 7.1 percent annual growth in revenue -- calls for gradual increases to their share of revenue, from 2 percent next season, to 4 percent the following year and 6 percent in 2014-15.

Even a brief lockout will cost players more than what were proposing, Bettman countered.

So what happens next?

On Sunday players will begin heading back to their respective homes. Some will head to Europe to play in professional leagues in Russia, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

As for Bettman, he says his latest offer is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposal but made it clear the next offer may not be as sweet as the last.

I said the same offer would not be on the table because of the amount of damage that would take place with lockout, Bettman said.

We made the last offer. We havent gotten a formal response to our proposal and Im hoping we get one that recognizes we made yet another meaningful move.

Brouwer wants to stay in St. Louis, but will he?

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Brouwer wants to stay in St. Louis, but will he?

Now that Troy Brouwer’s impressive playoff run with the St. Louis Blues has ended, what’s in store for the 30-year-old future free agent?

During the Blues’ breakup day, Brouwer told the St. Louis media that he’d love to re-sign with the Blues, but he also knows he’s not their only offseason priority.

“It’s a spot we really enjoyed this year,” Brouwer said. “I don’t know exactly what the cap situation is. I know it’s a business and I know they have young guys coming up with contracts in a year or two. You can’t just look at this season. You have to look forward to what their cap situations are going to be in years to come. It’s definitely a team and a city and a franchise I would love to come back to if the opportunity makes itself available.”

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The Blues have five forwards set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, including captain David Backes, who made $4.5 million this season. And with forward Patrik Berglund, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goaltender Brian Elliott all set to become free agents a year from now, Brouwer realizes his time in St. Louis may be coming to an end, especially if he wants a four- or five-year contract that can take him into retirement.

Brouwer’s market value peaked during the playoffs when he recorded eight goals and five assists in 20 games. The offensive outburst was notable since in his previous 78 career playoff games, Brouwer had just seven goals (3 with the Capitals, 4 with the Blackhawks).

“Considering I wasn’t able to contribute offensively in previous post-seasons and to be such a big part of it in such big moments, personally it’s rewarding,” Brouwer said. “But to see the look on the guys’ faces when we move on to the next round and the next round and win those big games and to be part of that, it was an amazing experience for me and it was a lot of fun. But I wish we were still playing.”

So do T.J. Oshie and the Capitals. Brouwer and Oshie were traded for each other last summer and both enjoyed strong seasons with their new teams. Brouwer netted 18 goals in the regular season and eight in the playoffs for the Blues, while Oshie notched 26 goals in the regular season and six goals in the playoffs for the Caps. Prior to this season Oshie had five goals in 30 playoff games with the Blues.

“I don’t want anybody to forget Oshie was a great player for this franchise for a long time,” Brouwer said. “I’m glad the trade worked out on both sides. I know he’s going to have another good year in Washington next year. I’m just glad that maybe I could get some of the people who were a little hurt by the trade on my side a little.”

MORE CAPITALS: 2015-16 SEASON IN REVIEW: MIKE RICHARDS

2015-16 Season in Review: Mike Richards

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2015-16 Season in Review: Mike Richards

With the Capitals’ 2015-16 season now in the rearview mirror, we continue with our numerical player-by-player roster analysis.

No. 10 Mike Richards

Age: 31 (turns 32 on Feb. 11, 2017)

Games: 39

Goals: 2

Assists: 3

Points: 5

Plus-minus: Minus-2

Penalty minutes: 8

Time on ice: 12:10

Playoff stats: 12 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, even, 4 PIM, 11:15

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent (2015-16 salary: $1 million)

When Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan and his coaching staff began exploring the possibility of signing center Mike Richards back in November, they kept telling themselves that if he could keep up to the pace of the NHL he’d be the perfect third- or fourth-line center for a team on a mission to win the Stanley Cup.

Defensively, Richards was exactly what the Caps had hoped. He was an integral piece of a penalty kill that ranked second in the regular season (85.2 percent) and second in the playoffs (90.7 percent).

From a leadership standpoint, Richards also received high marks from his teammates, coaches and management.

But offensively, he was a disappointment, managing just two goals on 46 shots in the regular season and no goals on nine shots in 12 playoff games.

“I’m happy with what Mike did,” MacLellan said. “I think he added a lot to our locker room. He’s a great penalty killer, competitive guy. We really valued his experience. I would have liked to see more offense. He had some good chances, created some good chances for himself and just didn’t finish.

“I think he was a little frustrated. The offensive confidence that we thought might get there probably never got there. But everything else about his game I thought was excellent. He’s just a smart hockey player.”

Signed by the Caps as a free agent on Jan. 6, Richards played his first game for the Caps 10 days later and settled into a defensive role with the Caps, taking defensive zone faceoffs late in games and taking pressure-packed shifts with the Caps holding leads late in periods.

Despite his effectiveness in the defensive zone Richards looked a step slow and did not score his first goal until Feb. 22 in his 15th game, receiving a standing ovation from the Verizon Center crowd. His speed appeared to increase late in the season and he played well in the first round of the playoffs against the Flyers, but he looked slow against the Penguins in Round 2 and was dropped from the third line to the fourth.

“I enjoyed my time here, it was awesome,” Richards said on breakup day, sounding like a player who would not return. “Everyone right from Day One has been just welcoming. It was a different feeling, but everyone here was awesome. I got here and I enjoyed my time here and who knows what's going to happen? But I definitely have no regrets about coming to Washington. Obviously, I wish the result was better, but at the same time, this was pretty awesome here.”

MacLellan said he would speak with Richards’ agent about a return to Washington, but having stated a need for more speed on the Capitals’ bottom two forward lines, it seems unlikely Richards will re-sign with the Caps.

“No expectations,” Richards said. “I'm not even sure what's going to happen, so we'll kind of hang out for a bit and see what's going on and go from there.”

Assuming the Capitals do not re-sign Richards it remains to be seen whether he did enough in his return to the NHL to warrant a free agent contract from another team. He changed his off-ice training last summer with the hopes of improving his skating.

“I've always known that I could play,” he said. “It's just, I guess, if the will's there maybe to continue. I had a fun time here in Washington, I enjoyed hockey again and I’ll kind of decompress and see what's next.

“I mean, I'm 31 years old, so I'm not old by any means. But we'll see. I honestly don't even know. I had so much fun this year with this team. Extremely, extremely disappointed of just not being able to play hockey anymore with the group of guys here. Frustrated, but at the same time I enjoyed my time here.”

Like many of his teammates, Richards said the bond in the Capitals’ locker room this season was something special.

“This team is unbelievable, to be honest,” he said. “The group is so unique, I can't even put it into words how unique this group is, it's pretty special.It's just a fun group to come to the rink and be around every day.”

As for why the Penguins are still playing and the Capitals are not, Richards said that may take some time in his hometown of Kenora to figure out.

“I'm going to sit in my boat and fish a little and probably think about it then,” he said, “but it's too early to put your finger on anything to be honest.”

Does Tampa's playoff run prove they don't need Stamkos?

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Does Tampa's playoff run prove they don't need Stamkos?

Has Steven Stamkos played his final game for the Tampa Bay Lightning? The superstar forward was on the final year of his contract and is now the biggest free agent on the market, or he at least will be when free agency opens on July 1. A player of Stamkos' caliber actually hitting the open market is rather rare, and where he decides to play could change the outlook of the the NHL. But first Tampa will have between now and July 1 to try to convince him to re-sign there.

As the season began and Stamkos remained unsigned, the Lightning faced a tough decision: trade him or risk losing him for nothing at the end of the season. At the trade deadline, Tampa elected to hold onto their star and make a run at the playoffs...only to see him miss almost the entire postseason with a blood clot in his right arm.

Now they have no Cup and no contract.

Stamkos said all the right things on Friday about wanting to remain in Tampa Bay.

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The problem is, he could have stopped it from getting to this point by re-signing before now. The team tried to get a deal done before the start of the season, but the two sides could not reach an agreement. Unless the Lightning were seriously lowballing him, which seems unlikely considering he was already counting $7.5 million against the cap, Stamkos could have ended the talk and the speculation by signing a deal. He would not have let it reach this point if he was not at the very least thinking about exploring his options in free agency.

But after the Lightning did so well in the playoffs, the question now is how much does the team actually need Stamkos? Tampa came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for a second consecutive season and they did it essentially without him.

According to General Fanager, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Nikita Nesterov and Mattias Ohlund are all free agents this summer. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Brian Boyle, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Andrej Sustr, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are free agents at the end of next season. Several of these players (Kucherov, Johnson, Drouin) are going to be due significant raises. General manager Steve Yzerman is going to have to make some tough decisions as to who will remain on the team and he’s going to have to find the money to pay them. He will have a lot more money to play with if Stamkos leaves.

Clearly, the Lightning are a better team with Stamkos. He has become one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL and it would be crazy to suggest that they are somehow better without him. The point is, should they pay him $8, 9 maybe even 10 million per year and lose some of their young talent, or try to keep the rest of the core together after seeing how successful they were in the postseason without him?

Of course the Lighting will still look to get a deal done before July 1, but now they don’t need to be desperate. They don’t need to break the bank with an offer around $10 million per year. Now they could justify offering him a contract around $8 million per year. If he stays, great. If he walks, well, more money for the rest of the team, a team that came within one win of making the Stanley Cup Finals.

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