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He puts in two cents on salaries

Sinden steamed over comments

When Bruins president Harry Sinden read the account of the visit to Boston Thursday by NHL executive vice president and chief legal officer Bill Daly, he was outraged. Sinden thought Daly, addressing the league's issues regarding the upcoming expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, threw him and the club under the bus by saying it was the Joe Thornton entry-level contract as well as the Joe Sakic free agent offer sheet from the Rangers, both in 1997, that threw the NHL's financial system into chaos.

 

"The Bruins have been [the NHL's] staunchest allies for about 12 years at the league level," said Sinden. "The story came out as if the Rangers and the Bruins since 1997 have caused this financial chaos. For a big-market team that's been in the bottom half of the payroll situation for many years, took its captain [Ray Bourque] to arbitration because we didn't want to pay him the money, let lots of players go because their demands were too high, put players back in the draft, holdouts every year because we're trying to hold the league line, the league policy, the league philosophy, to have someone come to town and say the two major causes of our problems are the entry-level signing of a certain draft choice [Thornton] in 1997 and to pair that with the offer to Joe Sakic and the Rangers' behavior over these years -- at some point, you have to try to defend yourself a little bit."

Sinden said the only time the Bruins have thumbed their noses at the NHL's financial guidelines with regard to holding salaries in line was with Thornton. He was the No. 1 pick overall and Sinden said he and everyone else in the organization were committed to getting the player signed that summer. However, he said it was not done irresponsibly.

"Once we drafted Joe Thornton and the entry-level system was in place, the cap, we were going to sign him no matter what," said Sinden. "We didn't care about any other team or the league or [commissioner Gary] Bettman or Daly or any other consequence. We had ended last, we then had a chance at the consensus No. 1 in the world, who most people thought was absolutely the next franchise player. We were going to do what we had to do to sign him. However, we did set a limit on it. We said we'd give him as much money as any No. 1 pick had made so far. That was [Alexandre] Daigle. [Ottawa] gave him a guaranteed $2.5 million a year for three years. We gave Joe the same thing but it wasn't guaranteed.

"It was a deflated contract, not an inflated contract. If he'd gotten every single bonus, he'd have had Daigle's contract. Daigle got it without having to go through that. It turned out Joe didn't get any of that stuff and he lost a ton of money. We didn't want that to happen, but it happened. He wasn't ready for the NHL. Had we not signed him at that time, he would've gone back to junior and our chances to sign him when he was ready were really diminished because he could've gone back into the draft [after two years].

"That was the only time since Bettman's been there that we took a position where we didn't care about you or anybody else. We've been the sacrificial lamb in almost every instance when something came up [regarding] players or free agents. And we weren't going to do it there. So we signed him to a deal that was less than Daigle's and Daly said it was an unprecedented signing."

Other teams followed suit in terms of getting their top picks signed but Sinden said there was a vast difference between what they gave Thornton and what other clubs gave the picks who followed him.

"What happened is, that model became the excuse for Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Minnesota, any other team, to give these bonuses," said Sinden. "Except they didn't do what the Bruins did. We said, `You're not getting any more than Daigle.' They didn't say, `You're not getting more than Thornton.' They gave them much more than Thornton."

Back in action

P.J. Axelsson and Sandy McCarthy returned to the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday. Axelsson missed the previous 10 games because of a shoulder injury originally suffered Nov. 20 against Washington. He initially sat out two games, then came back but reaggravated it, and was sidelined again. McCarthy missed five games because of a strained groin . . . Glen Murray had a game-high eight shots on net and scored the Bruins' only goal in the 2-1 loss . . . The Bruins take on the Rangers tomorrow night in New York, then close out their pre-Christmas schedule Tuesday night against Tampa Bay at the FleetCenter.

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