It turns out Brian Burke isn’t the only NHL executive who will have some important decisions to make over the next little while. But while Burke will have to make some vital choices on where exactly he wants his parking spot at the Air Canada Centre to be, or whether he goes with the home or condo route in Toronto, others will be pondering matters of equal importance:
So you’re Detroit GM Ken Holland…you’ve got Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Marian Hossa coming up to unrestricted free agency. You’ve already committed $37.5 million to next year's cap on two goalies, seven defensemen and seven forwards. You have a sense of loyalty to Zetterberg and Franzen, but all three are playing like they deserve big, fat new contracts.
Hossa is on pace for 100-plus points and is not only leading your team in scoring, but he’s playing both ends of the ice and has fit into the program seamlessly. You’ve crunched the numbers every possible way and you know there’s no way you can sign all three and keep your team intact. Luckily, you have some cheap NHL talent ready to play with the likes of Justin Abdelkader, Ville Leino, Darren Helm, Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson.
Do you trade one of the three before the trade deadline to get something in return? Do you look at trading guys such as Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula or Daniel Cleary to make room?
So you’re Marian Hossa…you really like the idea of playing for a perennial Stanley Cup contender the rest of your career. Do you take the hometown discount even though you’ve only been there a year, or do you take the money elsewhere and possibly give up the chance of ever winning a Stanley Cup?
So you’re Gary Bettman…two years after the Rory Fitzpatrick fiasco, your league still hasn’t learned its lesson about fan balloting. Supporters in Montreal are rigging the vote to get an all-Canadiens starting lineup in the All-Star Game.
You move to prevent it from happening, but your league’s integrity has already taken a hit and those guys are so far ahead it might not even help.
Do you step in and arbitrarily change the starting lineup to reflect reality or do you allow an abuse of democracy to run amok?
So you’re Bryan Murray…you’re watching your team quickly go down the sinkhole. You and your predecessor have parted ways with defensemen Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros. Your goaltending is suspect, you lack depth up front and your farm system is basically dry.
Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson have no-movement clauses, but you have a very tradable and talented player in Jason Spezza. You run the risk of dealing him and watching him blossom as a superstar somewhere else, but you have to do something to turn a tide that has become a tsunami of losing and negative feelings.
Do you deal Spezza to fill some of the other holes in your lineup? Do you blow things up and start over or hope that a group that has foundered for a year can turn things around?
So you’re Dustin Penner…your coach has basically called you out for being out of shape, lazy and non-competitive. You’ve been a healthy scratch for the first time in your career and you're at a crossroads.
Do you buck up and change your ways or do you sulk and continue to collect the highest salary among Oilers forwards ($4.25 million) this year? Do you try to prove people wrong or do you simply continue to prove them right?
So you’re Brian Lawton…you’re a rookie GM working for a couple of rich buffoons. You’ve just fired your coach, in part because he was ruining your prized prospect, Steven Stamkos.
Then, in your new interim coach’s first game, Stamkos gets exactly 48 seconds of power play time, while Radim Vrbata, who hasn’t scored a goal this season and hasn’t found the back of the net in 40 games dating back to last season, gets 5:51, including time on a 4-on-3 power play during overtime.
Do you tell Rick Tocchet to give Stamkos a better opportunity or continue to allow his coaches to set him up for failure?
So you’re Tom Hicks…your Dallas Stars are one of the biggest disappointments of the season so far. Your GM tandem of Brett Hull and Les Jackson hasn’t exactly translated into wild success on the ice, but you love Hull. You know Jackson is the better hockey man and is far less emotional, but you like the fact Hull is passionate, even if it means signing Sean Avery to a big-money, four-year deal.
So do you stick with the tandem or do you let one of them take the job and run with it? If so, which one?
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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