Chicago Blackhawks

Lengthy meetings still lacking progress

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Lengthy meetings still lacking progress

So much for lengthy talks getting the NHL and NHLPA anywhere in their quest for a new collective bargaining agreement. After a weeks worth of talking in New York City, it appears the sides are no closer to getting a deal done than they were when they began on Tuesday.

The league and players association had three more talks on Friday, but little if anything was accomplished regarding a new CBA. And based on a leaked memo (obtained from Pro Hockey Talk) from NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to the players, theres still a big gap between the two parties. In the memo, Fehr said the league still wants more than the future salaries the NHLPA has offered.

Then, later on Friday, things took an interesting turn. NHL sources, citing that memo, told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Fehr didnt fully inform players of the leagues latest offer.

The Star-Tribune reported the NHL would guarantee existing contracts at 1.883 billion (or their 57 percent revenue share from last season). Players would agree to an immediate 50-50 split; but a reduced portion of their salaries (12.3 percent) would be deferred one or two years. It would be repaid with interest from one year to the next and by the third year, every contract would be made whole.

Fehr disputed this when he spoke to reporters late Friday night, saying that players would not be receiving the full value of their contracts.

Fehr said hes informed the players of every proposal the league has made, and added that the players association doesnt think the gap on core economics is as wide as the league does. That last statement differs from what Fehr said in the memo to players on Thursday, when he stated theres still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made.

Several Blackhawks past and present, including Jonathan Toews, Steve Montador, Jamal Mayers and Troy Brouwer have often said Fehr has kept players in the loop on talks progress and proposals.

Montador, the Blackhawks player representative, called the accusations toward Fehr laughable.

Its clearly a tactic to drive a wedge between Don and the players. Its nothing but a reiteration of how strong we are, Montador said. Its laughable, really, that the league would resort to tactics like this. They locked us out when they didnt have to, and we didnt want it, weve conceded massive amounts of dollars in their favor (this time and 7 years ago) and we say enough is enough, and now this. They're trying anything now.

Brouwer talked earlier this week of the NHLPAs weekly conference calls.

We always have them to inform players to make sure everyones up to speed, he said. Anyone whos an NHLPA member can jump on so everyone knows whats going on.

So here we sit once again: only this time both sides are talking and the situation still isnt closer to being solved. Gary Bettman talked to reporters following Fridays meeting.

I don't want to raise or lower expectations, he said. I won't be happy until we get to the end result and that means we are playing again.

Bettman said he would also do whatever it takes to continue talks with the players association through the weekend.

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

The calendar is quickly approaching August and a majority of the NHL's top free agents have already signed new deals or found new homes. But there's one marquee player who has suddenly shaken loose, and will surely draw heavy interest across the league.

That would be 22-year-old defenseman Will Butcher, who informed the Colorado Avalanche that he will hit the open market and become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

Butcher, a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, was named the recipient of the 2017 Hobey Baker Award, annually given to college hockey's top player, after scoring seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games during his senior campaign while helping Denver University capture its first national title since 2005. It's the second straight year NCAA's top player has elected not to sign with the club that drafted him, with Jimmy Vesey doing the same last year when he signed with the New York Rangers instead of the Nashville Predators.

So could Butcher be a real option for the Blackhawks? There's certainly a reason for both sides to be intrigued by a potential match. 

With Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya no longer in the picture, the Blackhawks could use a young, NHL-ready blue liner with top-four potential and Butcher provides just that.

He's a 5-foot-10, 186-pound puck-moving defenseman with high offensive upside but also plays a solid two-way game and is responsible in his own end. He carries a left-handed shot, quarterbacked Denver's No. 1 power play unit and possesses strong leadership skills after serving as the team's captain for two years.

While he is certainly no sure thing, Butcher would be as close to pro ready as any prospect in Chicago's system and could factor into the cards as soon as this season. It also doesn't hurt that he shared the same blue line at Denver as Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman, who drew great reviews from Joel Quenneville at prospect camp.

The good news for the cap-crunched Blackhawks is that the maximum allowable salary for an entry-level contract is $925,000, so that eliminates the possibility of getting into a bidding war with other teams. Signing and performance bonuses can still be included, but that's the least of their worries if they can land a player of Butcher's caliber.

His decision will really come down to best fit and opportunity to play and win, and the Blackhawks can offer all of the above.

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson says goodbye to Chicago in emotional Instagram post

Niklas Hjalmarsson has called Chicago home ever since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2005. But now it's time for a new chapter.

After being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June, the former Blackhawks defenseman officially said goodbye to the city he spent a decade in and helped bring three Stanley Cups to with an emotional Instagram post that perfectly sums up his time here:

One marriage. Two kids. Three rings. 

Hjalmarsson will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Blackhawks fans.