Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Report: Rick Nash To Play In Switzerland During Lockout

Katie Strang of ESPN.com reported today that Rick Nash will be heading to Switzerland to play hockey until the NHL lockout ends, according to sources. Nash will be playing for the team Davos of the Swiss-A league, where Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks is also playing during the lockout. Neither Nash or his agent have officially confirmed that he'll be playing in Europe yet, but the writing is pretty much on the wall considering guys are jumping ship to Europe left and right since the NHL lockout became official on Sunday.

Nash, according to Strang, "wants to hit the ground running in New York once the lockout ends and feels that playing overseas will help him stay sharp."

No players on the Rangers have agreed to play elsewhere during the lockout thus far, so if Nash does indeed play in Switzerland he'll be the first.

Outside of that, there hasn't been any other news regarding the Rangers since the lockout began on Sunday. The NHLPA and the owners have not spoken since the lockout began and have no future talks scheduled, but that could reportedly change on Wednesday after the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah ends. Right now the only activity going on in the NHL are players exploring options playing in Europe and teams sending young players down to their AHL affiliates so that they can remain playing hockey within their organizations while the lockout goes on.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

NHL Lockout Nearly Official; No CBA Talks Scheduled For Saturday

The NHL is headed to a lockout. Any optimism we got when both sides reopened negotiations last Friday is dead, and at midnight tonight players will be locked out by the owners. The NHL owners and NHLPA have no meetings scheduled for today, meaning there will be no further attempts to reach a deal before players are locked out by owners at midnight. This really shouldn't surprise anybody at this point, but that doesn't make any of this suck any less for hockey fans all over the world.

Teams have already started making contingency plans by assigning players who are still eligible to their AHL affiliates so that they can play until the NHL season begins. Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, for instance, was optioned to their AHL team specifically for that reason. The Rangers announced that they have assigned eight players to the Connecticut Whale, although all of them (Forwards Kris Newbury, Chad Kolarik, Michael Haley, Tommy Grant and Brandon Segal and defensemen Sean Collins, Logan Pyett, and Mike Vernace) are veteran AHL guys who had virtually no shot of landing a roster spot with the big club anyway. There have been whispers over the past week that the Rangers would send Chris Kreider down to the Whale, but nothing has been officially announced by the team yet.

As far as what the rest of the team has planned, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards told Larry Brooks of The New York Post that the players have already begun looking to rent ice rinks in the New York area so that the team can still do conditioning drills and skate together as a team. John Tortorella has reportedly been in touch with Richards, Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist about keeping the team together and remaining conditioned. It's worth noting that as of right now no players on the Rangers have agreed to play overseas in Europe like other NHL players have. The Rangers obviously wouldn't admit to this, but it seems like the plan is for the team to stick together for now while they wait and hope that a new CBA is agreed upon fairly quickly. If weeks and months begin to go by with no progress towards a new deal I wouldn't be surprised if players begin to explore options playing in Europe. Lundqvist, for instance, has already indicated that he would likely go back to Sweden to play if the lockout drags on. Nevertheless, it's still great to see this team sticking together and shows the comradery of these guys for not wanting to immediately go their separate ways when the lockout begins.

Where things go from here is anybody's guess. The fact that both sides are still reportedly $1 billion apart in negotiations would seem to indicate that at the very least the lockout will drag on for a few weeks. I also think the fact that the NHL and NHLPA didn't even bother to meet today seems to indicate that both sides are still so far apart that there's no way they could settle everything in just one day. Gary Bettman's stubborn, two-faced approach has been the most aggravating part of all of this to me, personally. One day he gives the NHLPA a "take it or leave it" offer in an almost threateningly manner, and the next he's talking about how nobody wants to see hockey more than him. I'll have more on my disgust with Bettman and the owners in the next few days, though.

Oh, and just in case you wanted some more bad news on top of all this, there is virtually "no chance" restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto agrees to a new contract with the Rangers before the lockout begins at midnight tonight, according to both Bob McKenzie of TSN and Katie Strang of ESPN. All this really means is that whenever the season resumes and a new CBA is agreed to Glen Sather will immediately have to work on getting Del Zotto signed before the start of the season. Fantastic.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rangers Re-Sign Steve Eminger; Updates On Sauer, Del Zotto

The Rangers announced today that they have agreed to a new contract with unrestricted free agent defenseman Steve Eminger. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly a one-year, $750,000 deal, which would be a pay cut since Eminger earned $800,000 last season. Eminger skated in 42 games with the Rangers this past season, registering two goals and three assists for five points to go along with 28 penalty minutes. Eminger was a mainstay in the lineup early on in the season, but pretty much lost his spot in the lineup when he separated his shoulder in December and Anton Stralman stepped in and played well in his absence.

You can read the Rangers' official press release here.

Click below to read more from John Tortorella and Glen Sather on Michael Sauer's recovery from a concussion he suffered last December, as well as Michael Del Zotto's contract negotiations.

Friday, September 7, 2012

NHL, NHLPA Reopen CBA Talks In New York

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire on Sept. 15, the NHL owners and NHLPA reopened CBA talks today in New York, according to TSN. Both NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were in attendance for the meeting, which lasted two hours long. No other details about the meeting have been leaked up to this point, but they reportedly may meet again later tonight or sometime on Saturday. It was a week ago today that both sides agreed to "recess" and break off talks.

It's obviously good news that both sides have reopened dialogue, but beyond that it's hard to delve too much into this until more details from the meeting leaks out. It was inevitable that both sides were going to talk several more times before the owners plan to lock players out on Sept. 15, so I'm not overly optimistic just because they're talking again.

Hopefully, though, this is the start of something big, and both sides can make some headway towards a new deal as the clock continues to tick closer to the Sept. 15 deadline.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NHL, NHLPA Remain At Stalemate Over CBA Talks

It's officially time to panic.

Late last week news broke that negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHLPA, headed by Don Fehr, and the owners, headed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, have broken off after the owners rejected the players' first proposal last Friday. According to Fehr, it was ultimately the owner' decision who decided to break off talks, and the players remain willing to reopen negotiations whenever the owners want to come back to the table to talk about a new deal. Both sides had been negotiation for three days last week prior to the breakdown of talks. No other talks between the two sides have been planned at this time.

Click below to read more details on the latest breakdown of CBA talks, plus my thoughts on this whole mess and where we go from here.