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« Gomez/Drury Analysis Part II: What About The Other Options? | Main | Gomez/Drury Analysis Part III: The Jagr Factor »

July 09, 2007



Wow. I didn't even know this occured. Money aside, I can understand why Lowe wanted to make this move. This guy is an unquestionable star- and young one at that. Really, really young. I know I've been knocking the Europeans & their style of play, but Vanek is an exception. This only make you wonder what exactly happened with Ryan Smyth. Seems to me that maybe he never wanted to stay in Edmonton after all....

Budly Brewster

Good grief, is the salary cap so incredibly difficult to understand?

There is a fixed pool of money, and more or less, a fixed pool of players. The same dollars will be spent on the same players, with the main difference being that productivity will tend to be rewarded earlier in an elite prospect's career: RFA expenditure increases by exactly as much as UFA expenditure decreases. Yes, it's a cap: every increase in one area is balanced out by a decrease somewhere else. No more MSG slush-fund. Every dollar is an existing dollar, no matter whose xmas tree it winds up decorating.

From the GM perspective, this shift places a premium on being able to spot the RFAs who are worth the risk vs the RFAs who appear to have the numbers but won't pan out. A GM who refuses to take risks has little chance of winning a cup against the GMs who choose to take these risks and succeed.

This is the real reason that most GMs hate the offer sheet: it runs the risk of exposing them as the risk-averse sissies they really are.

The player who will win under the new rules is the hot prospect who formerly over-produced relative to his pre-UFA compensation, and then suffers an injury or decline before entering his lucrative UFA years. The player who loses is the career second-liner who makes it to his UFA years in good health, then gets handsomely overpaid (relative to his future production) by a GM trying to plug a dire hole in a market with not enough quality UFA players available.

The pre-CBA notion of comparables in arbitration has passed its expiry date. Teams often pay players a premium because of situational factors, such as the Oilers who were snubbed in the UFA market, after waving around more money than most of their competitors. It amounts to players arguing that they deserve Oiler-comparable compensation without having to move their wives there. Isn't that the definition of a floater? Wants to put up the numbers, but won't skate to the hard areas. If the arbitrators employed by the NHL are too stupid to figure this out, that's entirely distinct problem. Eventually Gary fix-it-after-it-breaks Bettman will have to address this.

In a few cases, a promising RFA will make a boat load of money and never produce to that level. Some of this money will come from deflation of overpriced contracts in the UFA market. In a few cases, an NHL caliber player will leave the NHL market when no team has enough money left to sign him at what he perceives as his fair value; some of those guys will go off to Europian leagues.

The best prospects will tend to be brought up at a slightly younger age than before, with less grooming in the feeder leagues. Sam Gagner is less likely to be poached by an offer sheet playing his first pro year at age 18 than if they had delayed his first pro year to 19.

In practice, hockey-wife destination teams like the Rangers will be able to select from proven talent, while Siberian teams such as the Oilers will need a GM with more mustard to succeed.

The other thing I just can't grasp is how the Oiler's offer for Vanek could be overpriced, while at the same time it is automatic for Buffalo to match. Which is it, people? It can't be both.

Finally, and this needs to be said, Burke is an idiot. His suggestion that GMs refrain from using a contractual mechanism in the CBA smacks of collusion. Major sports leagues already operate in the grey area concerning anti-trust legislation. It's hardly a wise move to air collusive sentiments in public, and I'm sure he's been tuned in behind the scenes by the NHL head office. It would be so much better if this wrist slapping had been more public, but the NHL doesn't wish to draw attention to how
they are operating just one or two missteps from triggering antitrust scrutiny. Burke is a Harvard Law alumni and he's a smart hockey operator, but his bluster reeks of contempt towards those who lack the legal background to call his bluff.

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