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Brian Duff's Blog: Changing how GMs manage big contracts in a salary cap world

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

A little more than three weeks ago, 14 teams concluded what was, for the most part, a fruitless 82-game regular season.

Since then, eight more teams have joined them – in some cases far earlier than they or the prognosticators would have anticipated.

That’s 22 teams that came nowhere close to winning the ultimate prize; 22 teams that probably have committed to certain players for longer than they would have liked based on bang for the buck, or lack thereof.

The one thing I’ll remember about the 2009-10 season (starting last summer) was the willingness of some teams to make tough decisions and resist the urge to accept the status quo.

Think of former Montreal GM Bob Gainey’s boldness to go small in acquiring Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and, most importantly, Michael Cammalleri; the Kings taking on the big contract of Ryan Smyth, but knowing they were acquiring an even bigger heart; Minnesota and Montreal both benefiting by exchanging homegrown, yet still young, high draft picks in Benoit Pouliot and Guillaume Latendresse; ditto for Colorado and Phoenix after they swapped youngsters Wojtek Wolski and Peter Mueller.

Teams that are reluctant to change are often guilty of one thing: falling in love with their own. They draft, develop, sign and sometimes suffer because they fear the breakup. And the optics of the salary cap world can make it appear as though they have little recourse.

“Nonsense,” said former NHL GM and NHL Network colleague Craig Button.

Button believes the time has come for more NHL teams to look at other leagues, namely the NFL, and act as those teams do.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, just more than a year removed from winning the Super Bowl, unloaded a significant headache in receiver Santonio Holmes (Super Bowl XLIII MVP) to the New York Jets for a fifth round pick. Will more NHL teams be willing to unload a big contract for essentially nothing other than cap relief? Will more NHL teams be willing to play the role of the Jets and take on a risky player/contract?

The following names are in no way to be likened to Holmes when it comes to personal conduct and it’s not entirely fair to think all should be hoisted into trade talk, but you know that in each local market fans are screaming for change.

Behind the scenes, are the managers thinking the same way?

And would you be willing to trade some of these players straight-up for similar contracts, or a late round pick?

(For the sake of simplicity, we’ll ignore no-trade clauses, long-term service/loyalty to the organization, etc.)

PLAYER, TEAM

SALARY

Joffrey Lupul, ANA

3 years/$4.25 million

Jason Pominville, BUF

4 years/$5.3 million

Tim Connolly, BUF

1 year/$4.5 million

Derek Roy, BUF

3 years/$4.0 million

Rod Brind’Amour, CAR

1 year/$3.6 million

Erik Cole, CAR

1 year/$2.9 million

Niklas Hagman, CGY

2 years/$3.0 million

Ales Kotalik, CGY

2 years/$3.0 million

Daymond Langkow, CGY

2 years/$4.5 million

Mike Commodore, CLB

3 years/$3.75 million

Shawn Horcoff, EDM

5 years/$5.5 million

Sheldon Souray, EDM

2 years/$5.4 million

Rostislav Olesz, FLA

4 years/$3.125 million

Patrik Elias, NJ

3 years/$6.0 million

Brian Rolston, NJ

2 years/$5.0 million

Dainius Zubrus, NJ

3 years/$3.4 million

Wade Redden, NYR

4 years/$6.5 million

Brad Boyes, STL

2 years/$4.0 million

Ryan Malone, TB

5 years/$4.5 million

Alexander Semin, WSH

1 year/$6.0 million


Of course, names like Jarome Iginla, Jason Spezza and Vincent Lecavalier have been floating around the rumor mill, too – and will likely continue to right up until the draft in late June.

It’s highly unlikely any of these names will move, but that’s based upon what history has shown us.

Is it time to re-write the team-building script and give history a different look?

What about that old adage about the lottery, ‘you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.’

Maybe it’s time more than a few teams cut the cord and take a gamble on new numbers that could prove lucky.

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Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his THN.com Blog HERE.

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