NHL Labour Woes
Count on mini free-agent frenzy before NHL season starts
So now we all sit and wait while the lawyers do their stickhandling.
With it looking now like NHL training camps won’t open before Sunday and a 48-game regular season getting underway Jan. 19, at least the official end of the NHL lockout and the start of the season is in sight.
It has to be a little tougher for the approximately 90 free agents who are sitting out there waiting to find out when, where or maybe if they will have a job for this season.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, NHL general managers were still in the dark in terms of details regarding training camp, player signings, waivers and other regulations regarding player movement.
“Haven’t heard when we can get started (with training camp), other than a Sunday rumour,” texted one general manager.
What’s clear is it’s going to be a wild scramble once the two sides agree on a memorandum of understanding and the collective bargaining agreement is ratified. The NHL board of governors is meeting for that purpose Wednesday in New York while the players will conduct the voting process over the Internet on Thursday and Friday. If the deal is ratified, that means players would likely report for the start of training camp Sunday for medicals with the first day of on-ice workouts Monday.
There will not be any exhibition games.
That would leave just six days for those 90 or so free agents to find homes before the season starts. Most of those free agents are of the unrestricted variety, though there are some significant restricted free agents like Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban.
“Before a deal can get done, the first agreement is yourself and your agent have to agree on the same things and I think we clarified everything (Monday). We know where we both stand,” said Subban, who is represented by Don Meehan of Newport Sports. “Now it’s his job to go and relay that Montreal and take it from there.
“We had a long summer to try and get things done and it didn’t happen so as far as I’m concerned, it’s out of my control. I can’t offer myself a contract. At this point now, I’m just waiting and making sure I keep myself in shape so that once I get to training camp, I’m ready to go. I’ve made it clear I want to play there and play there for a long time. My interest is nowhere but in Montreal. That’s never, ever changed and it’s never been a question. If anybody says anything different, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
The Subban case represents the tough negotiating that must be done in a short period of time.
New Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Monday his goal was to have Subban signed and on the ice when training camp opened.
There was talk in Montreal on Tuesday the Subban camp could be looking for a deal similar to that signed by Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty, who landed an eight-year deal worth $56 million. That sounds like a pretty lofty demand.
One player agent said “it is going to be crazy,” when the flag drops and the window to sign players opens with the ratification of the new CBA.
Other significant restricted free agents are defenceman Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers, centre Ryan O’Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche and centre Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.
Agents can talk contract with teams until camp opens, but deals cannot be signed until the CBA is ratified.
When asked if there was a possibility some free agents would not be able to find jobs, the agent replied: “there always are.”
When the dust settles and rosters are set, it’s expected teams will play a 48-game schedule that will see teams play only opponents in their own conference. The breakdown is likely to include four games against two divisional opponents, five games against two divisional opponents and three games against their 10 other conference opponents.