When a young Claude Giroux came to Philadelphia to play for the Flyers, he stayed at the home of veteran Danny Briere to help him become more acclimated to the National Hockey League.
They will have plenty of time to aid one another in getting used to their new environment, as it was announced Thursday that the pair had signed contracts to play with Eisbaren Berlin of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) during the duration of the ongoing NHL lockout.
There had been numerous reports in the last couple of days that claimed Giroux was on the verge of signing with HC Kladno club of the Czech Extraliga, a team that is perhaps not so coincidentally owned by Giroux's Flyers right winger last year, Jaromir Jagr. Along with left wing Scott Hartnell, the trio formed the most lethal offensive line in Philly.
Giroux opted instead to head to Germany's top competitive league with Briere, where the pair won't have to face Flyers teammate Wayne Simmonds. The winger, who had a breakout season with 28 goals last year, joined Eispiraten Crimmitschau of the Bundesliga in Germany's second-tier league.
Despite having won six of the last eight league championships, the team hasn't gotten off to the best start this season. With the addition of Giroux and Briere, their fortunes could turn for the better rather quickly.
Other Philadelphia players to decide to take their trade overseas during the NHL's self-imposed hiatus include goaltender Ilya Brygalov (CSKA of the KHL) and winger Ruslan Fedetenko (Donbass, also in the KHL), forward Jakub Voracek with HC Lev Praha (of the KHL) in the Czech Republic, and forward Matt Read with Sodertalje of the Swedish Elite League (SEL).
As the increasingly dire situation continues to play out, others may follow their lead.
Hartnell's agent, Matt Oates, told me last night by way of email correspondence that with regards to his client, "there are no new developments or plans to go over right now, but we have recently talked with a few teams." Oates did not elaborate on which clubs they had spoken -- or even what country they are exploring with regards to temporary employment -- but it will likely be an option should the lockout stretch towards the end of the month.
As of yet none of the Flyers defensemen have made the move to Europe, but Kimmo Timonen and Nicklas Grossmann may end up heading home to skate during what looks to be a prolonged work stoppage.
During the last lockout when the league lost the entire 2004/05 campaign, Timonen played in his Finnish hometown of KalPa. Grossmann was not yet an NHLer at that time, but was playing for Sodertalje SK in the SEL.
Both have indicated they do not have plans at this time to head home, but could do so should the timeframe of the lockout drag into months.
How Are CBA Negotiations Going?
The jump by Giroux and Briere cannot be a good sign as to how the players are viewing the progress -- or maybe the lack thereof -- of the CBA negotiations.
With the entire pre-season schedule already having been erased and the calendar having changed to October, it appears regular season games set to commence on October 11 -- the Flyers are scheduled to open
their schedule with the Boston Bruins that night at the Wells Fargo Center -- may start to fall by the wayside as early as today, barring some miraculous occurrence intervening in the stalemate.
At the center of the major gridlock that continues to be bypassed in any talks are the owners' demands as to two monetary topics:
1) The players acceptance of a significant salary rollback -- much the same way they did by accepting a 24% decrease after losing the entirety of the 2004/05 season -- with the amount sought by the NHL in concessions this time reportedly at 17%, and;
2) The division of Hockey Related Revenues, which at the current 57% players / 43% owners split is a huge sticking point. While there's no doubt the end game sees a much more even division, the NHL's initial
proposal saw a complete inversion where they would receive 57% and the players 43%. The NHLPA countered with a 54% players / 46% owners offer but with each percentage point representing $33 million (based upon
last year's record revenue of $3.3 billion), this continues to be a crucial hurdle in the two sides reaching CBA harmony.
Despite Bill Daly's continued weak attempts at PR and providing false hope to those who love the game that the League was doing everything in its power to facilitate an agreement, the Deputy NHL Commissioner
this past weekend finally began to speak in more realistic terms to those who have already been aware of the direness of the situation.
"We really need to hear from the Players' Association on those (economic issues)," Daly told NHL.com Saturday. "Again, we need some kind of sign that they're prepared to compromise their economic position because we haven't had that since Aug. 14. We'll see if we get there."
Perhaps the reason the league "has not heard anything" back from Fehr on this matter in the last six weeks is the stance the owners took at that time.
By giving an ultimatum that the league would not be participating in negotiations until the players accepted a drastic salary rollback, they basically backed NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr into a corner. With the NHL posting record revenues to the tune of a 60% increase since 2005 -- and boasting about it in each of the seven
years following the last lockout -- Fehr has had his hands tied regarding any proposals unless he recommends to the players that they accept the huge paycut.
With the league bragging about their record revenues, that likely is not going to happen.
Sad to say but with the two sides are digging their heels in for the long haul, it would seem that Flyers fans who want to catch their heroes in action during the 2012/13 campaign might have to do so by watching streaming video from one of the European leagues.