During NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s Thursday press conference forewarning a lockout, he claimed the owners believe they’re paying the players too much under the current CBA.
Several of those owners, however, had an odd way of proving Bettman’s point, signing 14 players to new contracts over the final two days of the CBA.
Those signings included:
Winnipeg Jets left winger Evander Kane (6 years, $31.5 million)
Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen (5 years, $29.5 million)
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (6 years, $23.8 million)
Phoenix Coyotes right winger Shane Doan (4 years, $21.2 million)
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (5 years, $20 million)
Vancouver Canucks right winger Alexandre Burrows (4 years, $18 million)
Boston Bruins left winger Milan Lucic (3 years, $18 million),
Detroit Red Wings center Justin Abdelkader (4 years, $7.2 million) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (2 years, $5 million)
Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein (5 years, $14.5 million), center Craig Smith (2 years, $4 million) and left winger Gabriel Bourque (2 years, $1.55 million)
Buffalo Sabres left winger Tyler Ennis (2 years, $5.625 million)
New York Islanders left winger Matt Martin (4 years, $4 million)
It can be argued those teams were simply conducting their business before the CBA expired, but it also makes the owners of those clubs appear hypocritical, rushing to sign players under the terms of a CBA they claim is unworkable.
The signings of Doan and Colaiacovo can be justified because of their unrestricted free agent status. The Coyotes didn’t want to risk losing their long-time captain to the Vancouver Canucks, while the Red Wings wanted to avoid the possibility of Colaiacovo signing with another team before the current CBA expired.
Burrows, Lehtonen and Klein were slated to become UFAs next July. In the event a new CBA isn’t in place until next summer, signing those three now ensured they wouldn’t be lost to free agency.
The other players, however, were either already restricted free agents or slated for RFA status next summer, meaning their respective teams still owned their rights if unsigned following a lockout.
If the current CBA was no longer workable for the owners, those RFA signings did nothing to justify their case.
Other notable restricted free agents – Dallas Stars left winger Jamie Benn, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly, Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and NY Rangers blueliner Michael Del Zotto – have no choice but to await a new CBA to continue their contract negotiations.
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk characterized contract talks before the lockout with Benn as slow, so it’ll be interesting to see if things speed up under a new CBA.
Subban was the subject of frequent trade speculation throughout the summer and his status will remain a hot topic during this lockout in hockey-mad Montreal.
The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater believes the Avalanche will get O’Reilly re-signed fairly quickly following the lockout.
Kulikov recently expressed hope he’ll have a new deal in place with the Panthers soon after a new CBA is in place.
Rangers GM Glen Sather recently said he was awaiting Del Zotto to “come to his senses” and accept the club’s offer, believed to be three years at $2.5 million per season.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.