From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, and if a deal with the players' association isn't reached soon the whole season could be lost.The league wiped out all games through Dec. 30 in its latest round of cancellations.Already, 422 regular-season games had been called off through Dec. 14 because of the lockout, and the latest cuts on Day 86 of the NHL shutdown claimed 104 more. The New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game were canceled earlier.In all, the 526 lost games account for nearly 43 percent of the regular season that was scheduled to begin Oct. 11.The cancellation of just two more weeks of the season, however, could perhaps signal hope of a deal to begin play in early January. Negotiations between the league and the players' association broke off last week, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday the sides are trying to restart talks this week.Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Monday that nothing had been completed regarding a meeting with the union.Whenever the sides do get back together, they will need to work quickly on a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week, after the most recent round of negotiations, that a season must consist of at least 48 games to protect its integrity. That's the same number of games played during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.The 1995 lockout ended Jan. 11. The season then began nine days later and lasted until May 3. That marked the only time the NHL season has stretched until May. Each team played 48 games, solely within its own conference, which is likely the model the league would follow this time if a settlement is reached soon."When it gets to the point where we can't play a season with integrity, with a representative schedule, then we'll be done," Bettman said on Thursday. "If you go back in history, in 94-95 I think we played 48 games. I can't imagine wanting to play fewer than that."Depending on who was asked last week, the message was either the sides were close to a deal or nowhere near one.Players' association executive director Donald Fehr said Thursday night, after three straight days of negotiations, that he believed an agreement was close, only to change his position moments later when the NHL rejected the union's most recent offer.Bettman disagreed that a deal was near and then angrily announced the league was rescinding every offer it had put on the table since the start of negotiations."I would say it was expected," New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron, the team's union representative, said about the lost games Monday in an email to the AP. "We continue to stand behind Don 100 percent and the work our negotiating committee is doing and working hard to get a deal done."Neither Fehr nor his brother Steve, the union's special counsel, had a comment following the NHL announcement on Monday.The NHL and the players are trying to avoid the loss of a full season for the second time in eight years. The 2004-05 lockout, that eventually produced a salary cap for the first time in league history, was the first labor dispute to force a totally canceled season in North American professional sports.The season was called off Feb. 16, and an agreement was reached on July 13. The lockout ended nine days later, after the deal was ratified by both sides, allowing for the following season to begin on time. That agreement reached then was in place until this year, and the current lockout began right after its expiration on Sept. 16.
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The Bulls entered rebuild mode on Thursday night after they dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They acquired a pair of guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick which they used to select Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.
But the Bulls opted not to continue adding youth to their roster when they sold their second-round pick, No. 38 overall, to the Golden State Warriors. That pick was Oregon power forward Jordan Bell, who many considered a late first-round prospect.
The move was perplexing for a team that hours earlier had traded away its franchise player to start a youth movement. But VP John Paxson said after the draft that the decision to move the pick was based on team depth, hinting at a significant move the Bulls will make in free agency.
"We had some wings on our board that we had targeted that were the only way we were going to keep that (No. 38) pick, and they went before us. And drafting Lauri (Markkanen), and the fact that we have, Niko’s a restricted free agent we intend to bring back, Bobby Portis, we didn’t want to add another big and that’s really all that was left on our board."
Both Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have said since the season ended that Mirotic, who will become a restricted free agent on July 1, is part of their future plans. The Bulls will be able to match any contract that another team offers Mirotic, and they intend to keep the 26-year-old in Chicago. After Butler's departure, Mirotic is now the longest tenured member of the Bulls. He's been with the team for three seasons.
The wings Paxson may have been referring to include Miami's Devon Reed (32nd overall to Phoenix), Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu (33rd overall to Orlando) or SMU's Semi Ojeleye (Boston, 37th overall). Point guards Juwan Evans (Oklahoma State) and Sterling Brown (SMU) were still on the board and potential options, but the Bulls were set on looking for wing help after receiving point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine in the Butler trade.
The Bulls frontcourt depth looks filled, as Cristiano Felicio is expected to return behind Brook Lopez. Mirotic, Portis, Markkanen and Joffrey Lauvergne should make up the power forward depth chart. Opting against using the 38th pick, which Golden State bought for a whopping $3.5 million, also leaves the Bulls with room to add a 13th player in the fall.
"It keeps us at 12 roster spots and gives us real flexibility for our roster," Paxson said. "So we didn’t just want to use up a roster spot on a player that we probably wouldn’t have kept."