SBD/Issue 195/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Lack Of Activity At NHL Draft Blamed On Economy, Free Agency

Burke Feels New Economic Environment
Making It Hard To Trade Players In NHL
This weekend's NHL Draft was "more about smoke than fire, with only two prominent players changing teams and half-a-dozen others still on board, awaiting word on their respective futures," according to Eric Duhatschek of the GLOBE & MAIL. The lack of moves, which is "becoming more pronounced every year, is tied inextricably to the upcoming free-agency period, and the uncertainty about how the market is about to unfold." Duhatschek notes if the "dollars paid out this year are down from the ridiculous sums commanded by players over the past two years, then the trade dynamic will change as well." If players such as restricted free agent Senators LW Dany Heatley "start to take deep discounts" when free agency begins Wednesday, it will become "even more difficult to peddle a player signed at the height of the NHL's wild post-lockout growth spurt" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/29). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch wrote there was "plenty of talk and not nearly as much action" at the draft. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli: "There's a general conservatism because of the uncertainty (with the salary cap and the economy). You feel the market is going to adjust and you want to experience that adjustment first before you start shuffling. That's the only reason I can think that there weren't many moves and that's the feeling I'm getting from speaking to a couple of GMs." Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke: "Right now, it's so hard to move guys, especially anybody who has any term left on their contracts. I thought there would be more activity. ... I'm not quite sure why there wasn't" (OTTAWA SUN, 6/28). In Nashville, John Glennon notes since the end of the regular season, "only a handful of significant players ... have re-signed with their team." Predators GM David Poile said that "one big reason is that there is a fundamental difference between teams and players regarding the salary cap for the 2010-11 season." Poile noted that the cap will "dip that season because of the bad economy, and that teams are structuring multi-year contract offers accordingly." Poile: "Players think that they're undervalued and that if they go to July 1st, they'll get more money. In a big sense, it's a little bit of a game of chicken" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 6/29).

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS ...: In N.Y., Larry Brooks reported the NHLPA "did not have enough player reps" at its meeting last week in Las Vegas to "tally the vote on the critical issue of voting on the 5[%] cap escalator clause that eventually was adopted through e-mail tally." A number of players "went to Las Vegas on the union's dime, partied, and never bothered to actually ... attend the meetings." Meanwhile, sources sthat the escrow withholding figure for last season "has been calculated at a staggering 15.9[%]," and players who "voted against the escalator did so in order to reduce escrow for the coming season." However, Brooks wrote such votes were "short-sighted and selfish, for it always is important to have the cap as high as possible and the most money possible in the system." A higher salary cap "means more available money for free agents -- and approximately five-sixths of the players in the NHL will become free agents during the term" of the current CBA, which expires in September '11 (N.Y. POST, 6/28).

BUMP UP: In Detroit, George Sipple noted the NHL and NHLPA Friday announced that the salary cap for next season will be $56.8M, an increase of "just $100,000 from this past season." The cap "would have dropped if the players had not voted in" the escalator clause. Sipple noted the Red Wings were "hoping to work out a long-term contract" with RW Marian Hossa at an average of $4M per season, but with the cap "barely increasing, it will be difficult to bring him back without additional roster maneuvering" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/27).

FEELING A DRAFT: Lightning Exec VP & GM Brian Lawton said the franchise was “completely in agreement” on selecting D Victor Hedman with the No. 2 overall pick in the Draft despite reports of infighting between co-Owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules. Meanwhile, the Panthers drafted D Dmitry Kulikov with the No. 14 pick despite rumors he may return to Russia to play for the Continental Hockey League. TSN’s Bob McKenzie said “there’s a Russian factor at work,” as teams are scared about Russian-born players not coming to the NHL. McKenzie: “At the end of the day, a lot of people are still a little wary of the whole Russian factor” (“NHL Draft,” Versus, 6/26).

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