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NHL - GM's disagree on effect of labor uncertainty

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  • NHL - GM's disagree on effect of labor uncertainty

    (CP) - General managers around the NHL have differing views on the effect that possible labour uncertainty this fall is having on this year's trade deadline.

    In fact, there appears to be two camps: those who will not pick up any salaries going past this season and others who simply don't care. They'll do whatever it takes to win the Stanley Cup. Take Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, for example. When he acquired Robert Lang from Washington last Friday, he also picked up the $15 million US remaining on the centre's contract.

    The last thing on Holland's mind was how a possible salary cap next year might affect that acquisition.

    "I don't see it having that great of an effect," says Holland. "Teams are trying to win the Stanley Cup, teams are going to pay whatever price they think is fair to get a little bit of an addition. I don't see that the mindset is any different now that it has been in past years.

    "If you think your team has a chance, you'll never know if that opportunity presents itself again."

    And besides, if there's no hockey next season, then teams aren't on the hook to pay players.

    But other clubs aren't taking that chance and don't want any big-ticket salaries on their docket in case hockey resumes as scheduled next season with a salary cap.

    Washington, Chicago and Carolina, for example, are trimming down and getting younger in anticipation of what they think will be some form of new system limiting payrolls.

    "I think people are trying to figure out where the league is trying to go and so it probably is having an effect on this year's trade deadline," said Blackhawks GM Bob Pulford. "In Chicago, we wanted to be in a position so that whatever happens we'll be capable of signing free agents. I feel that was a factor for us."

    So out went Steve Sullivan and Alexei Zhamnov, in came draft picks, a prospect and defenceman Jim Vandermeer.

    "If I could get my payroll down as low as I can, it would give me more options going into the new (collective bargaining) system, whatever that's going to be," said Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. "So ideally, if we trade a player we'd want to get a player back who is young and less expensive."

    But Devils GM Lou Lamoriello wondered if the labour situation could be used by some teams as a way to justify cutting payroll.

    "I honestly don't believe it has as much an effect as people are making it out to be," he said. "The same decisions and the same thought process that you had two or three years ago, with reference to making a trade at this time, such as what type of contract you are picking up, what your budget is going to be - I think those decisions are similar.

    "Right now they're more exaggerated and could be used at times more as excuses than reasons."

    But it's not just the non-playoff teams that are looking ahead to the new collective bargaining agreement. Even Stanley Cup contenders like the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs have it in mind approaching the trade deadline.

    "I think we're probably one of the first teams that started thinking about that," Bruins GM Mike O'Connell said.

    "We don't have too many players signed past this CBA, and that may give us flexibility at this time to do something."

    Key Bruins such as Glen Murray, Mike Knuble, Dan McGillis, Sean O'Donnell and Brian Rolston are due to become unrestricted free agents July 1, giving O'Connell the leeway to add a big player before next Tuesday's deadline without hampering his payroll next season.

    The Maple Leafs are also conscious of the changing labour landscape as they determine whether or not to acquire a big name. Their concern is that they may need their young players going ahead if the new system doesn't allow them to simply add big-name free agents as they have in the past.

    "We don't know what the (free-agent) market's going to be, we don't know what's going to happen with the CBA, so clubs who in the past were buyers may not be able to do it going forward," said Leafs head coach Pat Quinn. "So you don't want to give away your (young) assets unless it really makes a lot of sense."

    Despite adding Sullivan and his $3-million salary, the Nashville Predators have also looked ahead to a new financial landscape while still trying to compete this year.

    "We've already operated knowing there's going to be a new system," says Preds GM David Poile. "We have primarily a team of young players and the lowest payroll in the league, so we feel we're in a good position to adapt to whatever system there might be."

    Stars GM Doug Armstrong admits it is difficult trying to balance next year's payroll in a new CBA with needing to win now. He's got some big-time salaries next season in Mike Modano ($9 million), Bill Guerin ($8.86 million) and Sergei Zubov ($6 million) but would still like to add a player at the deadline.

    "It adds a different variable that we haven't had in the past," Armstrong said. "You want to make sure you have some flexibility (next year). But that being said, we're not going to lose sight of the 2003-04 season either."

    Holland says no matter what happens with the labour situation, NHL clubs can't lose sight of the simple truth.

    "At some point in time hockey is going to be played again and the games are going to go on," he says.


    If the owners and GM's can't see the fact that there's a problem then I think it's gonna end up like MLB's cba problems and a smiliar CBA thus not solving any problems.
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  • #2
    No surprise.....

    Teams that are in it are going for it; those aren't are cutting payroll...

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy


    • #3
      Convenient excuse for Wirtz.


      • #4

        Again, not being an NHL fan, it seems to me the league is becoming as relevant as men's tennis.

        How could this have gotten so out of control? Overexpansion and player salaries seem likely culprits.
        His mind is not for rent, to any god or government.
        Pointless debate is what we do here -- lvr