Mayers says NHL, NHLPA are close, remains optimistic

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Mayers says NHL, NHLPA are close, remains optimistic

Jamal Mayers sat in on all of those ownerplayer meetings last week in New York City. And while things broke off in an ugly way last week, the Blackhawks forward says there isnt much separating the two sides.

Being involved in those meetings, the reality is we are that close, Mayers said on Monday. My hope is when the dust settles and cooler heads prevail theres enough owners quite frankly itll have to come from them to put pressure on (commissioner Gary Bettman) and say, Are we going to lose a season over how close we are? And for those who suggest, Well, why dont players move more? Theyre not giving credit for how far weve already moved at all. The reality is, the deal is right there to be made.

We have to figure out what to do with the transition rules, going from old system to new system, the cap numbers going to change, allowing teams to perhaps opportunity to have one player amnesty, Mayers said. There are some things to work out from there. But I just worked out in general terms how we are that close.

Mayers said the two sides agreed in principal to transition payments (aka make whole), which executive director Donald Fehr said prior to Thursday nights blowup. The league, however, said the economics agreement was contingent to the NHLPA accepting three other items: CBA length, player contract limits and some transition items.

It wasnt presented to us for the transition paymentmake whole, that theyre tied together to everything else. That was never, ever said in any of the meetings, Mayers said. So that comes as a surprise.

The league wants a 10-year CBA (with an opt out after eight). The NHLPAs latest proposal moved to eight years. Owners are adamant about a five-year contract limit seven years for a player re-signing with his current team to the point where deputy commissioner Bill Daly called it the hill we will die on. Players offered eight years max.

So why are players so against that five-year maximum? Mayers used the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example:

If you were to sign a guy like Sidney Crosby to a five-year deal (or at least eight year deal like were proposing), you end up paying Crosby 12 million a year, whatever 20 percent of the cap is, for the entire length of the contract. Flat line. Because youre not able to change the numbers at all and have any kind of variance because hes going to get his security within those five years. Whats Evgeni Malkin going to get? Hes going to get 12 million. What about (Marc-Andre) Fleury coming up? (Kris) Letang? Youre not going to be able to keep the team together. Youre also going to crush the middle class and lower-tier players. All that moneys going to get eaten up by those guys.

Theres a reason why Sidney took a little less and this contracts designed the way it is because he wants to play on a good team. Youd think that owners would want something similar, Mayers said. I believe theyd want it like that because it allows them to keep their players. But most importantly it crushes the middle-class player.

Mayers said the NHLPA also proposed a solution to the back-diving player contracts, including those signed this past summer.

Any contract seven years or greater, if the player was fit to play but retired anyway, you would take the dollars remaining, or the cap hit number, and penalize the team and charge them a cap hit for trying to take advantage to finding a loophole, he said. To me, if you have that in place, and you have a variance in our new system where we said eight-year contract length, you wont have those issues with back-diving contracts. So what do they care on how the moneys allocated? Its like a salary cap. You can only spend X, thats it.

Despite the ugly end to last week, the two sides did correspond this weekend. Daly told the Associated Press that the sides are trying to set up something for this week, but nothing finalized yet.

Obviously Im still optimistic, Mayers said about a season. Thats the reason why were here skating and trying to get ready.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

There are a lot of similarities between the Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Both have a nice record to start this season and both are getting through recent injuries as best they can.

And thanks to their goaltending, they had a pretty fun little battle on Friday night.

Antti Raanta edged Scott Darling as the Rangers took a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday. It was surprising that Raanta got the start, only because he had started for the Rangers on Thursday against Winnipeg. But he’s been hot, he’s good at the United Center in his career and obviously it was the right decision.

The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday against another team going through its injury issues, the Dallas Stars. Before then, however, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Rangers.

1. A familiar goalie duel. Two seasons ago Scott Darling and Antti Raanta were fighting for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending spot. So it seemed fitting that they face each other on Friday night. They didn’t disappoint. Each goaltender had his share of stellar stops, many coming in the second period as each team looked for an edge. Raanta got the victory, running his record at the United Center to 15-0-3. The two had a quick, good-natured talk at the end of the game. “It was all friendly,” Darling said. “We were just saying, ‘good job’ and we’re happy for one another.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Kane alright. Patrick Kane got the concussion protocol call in the second period a few moments after he was hit into the glass by Nick Holden. After Kane was called for high-sticking he was sent to the locker room, returning as the Blackhawks went on their first power play of the night at 17:28 of the second period.

3. The Rangers’ successful challenge. Just when you thought the Blackhawks were taking a 1-0 lead the third period (Marian Hossa), the Rangers challenged for offside. They won, nullifying Hossa’s attempt at his 15th goal of the season. Hossa was disappointed, and is frustrated at how some of the rule changes are taking away goals when the league is trying to increase scoring. Coach Joel Quenneville, when asked if he’d like the rule changed if he could, laughed. “Right now? Sure.”

4. A better all-around game. We may be harping on the Blackhawks’ injury situation but when you’re missing three key guys (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford) it’s going to alter your game. But the Blackhawks played a strong all-around game against the Rangers and had some good scoring chances. All things considered, and against a very good Rangers team, Quenneville liked what he saw. “We know they’re a dangerous team off the rush, a lot of guys can make plays, a ton of speed. You have to respect that in ways and they check well in their own end,” Quenneville said. “I thought we did some good things. I think on the rush game we did a good job of taking away that danger.”

5. When will the Blackhawks return to health? Yeah, we’re looking ahead a little bit on this one, and we may have a clearer picture by Saturday morning. If Toews and Seabrook are skating and come out of the session well, there’s a chance they could play on Sunday. The Blackhawks have done alright despite the injuries. But you have to wonder when they start feeling a bit depleted.