Reaching a new CBA is a negotiation, not an exercise in fairness

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When the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA expires on Sept. 15, it will have done just that – expired.

Over.

Done.

Finito.

No longer will the owners be obligated to pay the players 57 percent of hockey-related revenues.

In fact, hockey-related revenues won’t exist anymore, at least as they’re defined in the current CBA. Because, again, the current CBA will no longer exist.

For this reason, we hear league commissioner Gary Bettman saying things like: “Somehow there’s an entitlement [for the players] to be at 57 percent. There is no such entitlement.”

To which union chief Donald Fehr has rightfully responded by saying the salary cap is still on the table. No entitlement there, either.

Nor, for that matter, are the owners or players entitled to fan support.

In one of the more sensible (i.e. not hysterical) columns we’ve read on the CBA negotiations, ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes:

You can argue who owns the moral high ground in the now stalled talks between the NHL and the NHLPA until your toenails turn a nice shade of blue, but it is the ultimate moot point, a distinction that has no bearing whatsoever on however or, more importantly, whenever this labor dispute is resolved.

The owners own the teams — hence their title — so why shouldn’t they want to make as much money as possible, even if their financial problems are almost all of their own making? They don’t call it the charity of hockey, they call it the business of hockey, and after getting cost certainty with a salary cap last time around, the owners want something more this time.

After seven years of a system that saw the players receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenues, the owners have decided they need to reset the economic landscape. Reset means, of course, giving the players less, starting with the 2012-13 season.

If you were an owner, wouldn’t you want that?

It remains a mystery why so many people seem surprised by the owners’ tack.

A veteran union negotiator, Fehr sure isn’t surprised.

“Everybody understands that employers would always like to pay less,” he said. “That’s not a surprise to anybody — it’s disappointing sometimes — but it’s not a surprise.”

Fortunately, both sides remain motivated to reach an agreement. The players want to play and get paid. (Obviously.) The owners of the profitable teams want to get back to selling tickets and making money. (Obviously.) Even the owners of the non-profitable teams don’t want to sit around watching their investments rot.

So, what will ultimately bring the owners and players together? According to the National Post’s Bruce Arthur, it’s the “knowledge of what is almost certainly coming. Antipathy, rancour, missed games, missed paycheques, lost revenues, a shortened season, a storm of condemnation, and, in the worst-case scenario, lasting damage to the game.”

Noticeably absent from that list?

Fairness.

Related: History suggests fans will come back if there’s a lockout

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eihel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least development into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.