MONDAY’S DAILY FIVE
1. The NHL and NHLPA are expected to set up a meeting later this week, following Thursday’s collapse in talks. While there’s been chatter among NHL insiders like Darren Dreger of TSN that both sides are pushing their leaders to get back to the bargaining table, it remains to be seen if one side will blink in the lets say next week or two where this won’t end up being a last minute deal at somepoint in January. Expectations remain that Don Fehr will hold firm to his master plan of playing a game of poker until the very last minute. The side though I’m fascinated to watch in the next 7-14 days is the owners. Gary Bettman says the $300 million “make whole” is off the table and he has quite a few owners who were furious at the concessions Bettman had made last week, especially the $300 million ‘make whole’. Some beleive he has pressure to hold back on putting that back on the table, even if the players go to a 10 year CBA term.
2. As Pierre LeBrun noted on Friday, the main issues halting a deal right now is 1. CBA Term, 2. Contract Term, 3. No compliance buyouts or caps on escrow in transition. If the owners put the $300 million ‘make whole’ back on the table, those close to the situation believe the players will eventually agree to a 10 year deal. The main battle is on contract terms where the owners are at 5 years (7 years to resign own players) and the players are at 8. Bill Daly said this is a hill he is willing to die for, so if the owners under no circumstances won’t budge, how can we see a compromise? How about a desginated cap hit teams can use for one player on the roster?
The concern for the players has been that a 5 year term limit will lead to stars having $10-$11 million cap hits and depth players being hit the hardest. For players with cap hits of $8 million or higher, I had an agent tell me this weekend that what the players should do is propose a desginated “franchise player” tag where teams can designate one player under this tag as having just an $8 million cap hit (the agent used $8 million as the number for the cap hit). For example, player X signs a 5 year, $55 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings and instead of taking on an $11 milllion cap hit, the Kings “designate” player X with the “franchise player” tag ($8 million cap hit), saving them $3 million on the cap.
Right now only 15 players on a combined 14 teams were scheduled to make $8 million or more in 2012-2013 but a lot of that has to do with back diving of contracts and teams in the past being able to lower cap hits. A designated franchise player tag would for instance be a plus for the Penguins in resigning Evgeni Malkin. The salary cap for 2013-2014 season under the owners current proposal is projected to be $59.4 million. That would put the maximum salary allowed around $11.8 million per season and the NHL is also demanding that a players salary cannot decrease or increase by $500,000 from their year 1 salary.
If a 5 year contract term (7 years to resign own players) is put in place, the Penguins fully expect Evgeni Malkin’s agent J.P. Barry to look closely at the breakdown of the first 5 years of Sidney Crosby’s 12 year contract. Crosby is scheduled to earn $57.8 million in the first five years of his deal, which averages out to $11.56 million per season and if Malkin’s looking to go seven years, Crosby is due to make $76.8 million over first seven years, which would be a $10.9 million cap hit.
3. Mike Wallace had a big day on stat sheet vs San Diego with 7 receptions for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns, highlighted by a 40 touchdown grab with 2:33 left in the third quarter. While the stat sheet looks like a big day for Wallace, he came up small when the game mattered. Wallace had 5 receptions for 85 yards, 2 touchdowns from the time Pittsburgh trailed 27-3 (5:20 left in the 3rd quarter) till the end of the game. In the second quarter when it was still a game, Wallace had a holding penalty inside the Steelers 10 yard line then had a bad drop on a deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger that drew the boo birds from the crowd. It was good to see Wallace battle back after getting booed from the crowd but as teammates said afterwards, the game was lost in the first half due to missed opportunities and Wallace had a big one.
4. Is it time for Mike Tomlin to let his grudge against Rashard Mendenhall go? Yes it is! Mendenhall went from being the No. 1 back just two weeks to now wearing street clothes on Sunday’s. According to team sources, Mendenhall being inactive for back to back games has more to do with what Tomlin felt was poor preparation during the Ravens week when Mendenhall became demoted to third string following the Browns game where he fumbled twice. Coming off a major knee injury and then an achilles injury, I felt at the time, Mendenhall’s demotion wasn’t warranted based off just 34 carries this season and despite some feeling he lacks the type of determination needed and has a “who cares attitude” as he cares about other things than football, Mendenhall’s still the Steelers most talented running back and in Todd Haley’s dink and dunk offense that relies on check downs, Mendenhall gives Pittsburgh the best option in that area and overall, Mendenhall deserves another shot at winning his job back. It needs to happen Sunday in Dallas.
5. After Plaxico Burress impressive 18 yard catch on 3rd and 11 (1st quarter) in traffic where Ben Roethlisberger made an excellent throw and Burress used his 6-foot-5 frame to his advantage, how didn’t offensive coordinator Todd Haley at least become intrigued to see what Burress could do and make an emphasis on Burress getting more looks in the first half. It never happened and Burress wouldn’t see the field again until the 2nd half when the game was out of hand.