The 'stupid' league
Chara to Boston? Guerin to St. Louis? Demitra to Minnesota? Jovanovski to Phoenix, Blake back to LA and Gerber to Ottawa?
"This is becoming a stupid league."
Those were the thoughts of a friend of mine last week, right on the heels of what was the busiest free-agency period in NHL history. It was hard to disagree with him.
At some point, all that player movement becomes too much player movement and you're left watching an incessant merry-go-round of players and jerseys, shaking your head.
We're certainly headed in that direction.
If you view the new CBA as a work in progress solution, as I do, then this increased movement is one of the major downfalls of the league's relatively positive new labour agreement. The cap alone's not responsible for this flurry of movement, but we're certainly seeing our fair share of salary dumps to fit under that $44-million figure.
More than anything, however, it's that pesky lowered unrestricted free agency age that's really pushing all the jersey swapping going on.
Now, high player moment has been a big part of hockey since the mid-1990s, ever since the dollar figures began to creep out of reach for a lot of teams. Still, I'll never forget watching the Stanley Cup final and hearing that nine players from both competing clubs were headed for the UFA pool less than two weeks after the Cup was handed out.
So much for a celebration.
The thing is, 2006 is going to go down as the worst-ever year for player movement for a number of reasons, and there are a number more that point to things settling done in the future.
In short, coming off the lockout, many GMs (and players) opted for only one-year deals during the transition year, which is why so many players are without teams. As UFAs like Chara and Savard ink deals for longer terms — with more and more no-trade clauses — teams are going to stay together a heckuva lot better than what we've seen this year.
At least I hope that's the case.
Because as much as I believe this league needed a salary cap, the last thing we want to have is a 'sticks in the middle' free for all every year. That would truly be a stupid league.