Many of the NHL’s 30 general managers will arrive Sunday in Boca Raton, Fla., for their annual meeting in the wake of the trade deadline, and Boston’s Peter Chiarelli intends to add his two cents to the discussion about clubs sharing, or evening out, salaries when making player swaps.
“I’m a convert,’’ said Chiarelli, noting that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has long advocated that the league relax its “no share’’ salary policy. “I understand the league’s position that it’s inherently inflationary when you’re allowing one club to deal a player and still share some of that salary. And I’ve agreed with the policy all along, but . . .’’
Market stagnation has changed Chiarelli’s position. Some seven years since the crafting of the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement and the implementation of the salary cap out of the 2004-05 lockout, it has become increasingly difficult for GMs to make trades.
If a GM has a player who no longer fits his plan, league bylaws prevent him from dealing the player elsewhere and assuming so much as a penny of his salary. When the player moves, so does his contract, in full, to be assumed by the acquiring team.
“I think allowing teams to retain salary in deals, with reasonable limits, will facilitate trades and help players who might be overpaid (our fault, not theirs) still play in the league,’’ Burke wrote in an e-mail Friday.
A case in point would be the grossly overpaid Wade Redden, who departed Ottawa as a free agent in July 2008 and signed for a hefty six years/$39 million with the then-aimless Rangers. After two seasons of meager production (156 games/40 points), Redden was ditched to the minors and has spent the past two seasons riding buses around the AHL, making an average $6.5 million per year.
The only solace for the Rangers is that his salary gets removed in full from their cap hit.
Burke, Chiarelli, and a smattering of other GMs, if they get their way, would arrive at some formula for even the likes of Redden, now 34, possibly to get another shot at the big time.
If the league were to allow, say, even a one-third share, the Rangers might consider carrying Redden at the cost of a $2.16 million cap hit while he played for another team at a reduced salary of $4.34 million. A two-thirds share would flip those figures around, with the Rangers stuck for the $4.34 million and the acquiring club taking on the former No. 2 overall pick at the bargain-basement figure of $2.16 million. A salary shared, a career continued.
Another potential remedy could be for the league and the Players Association to expand the window on contract buyouts. Although rare, buyouts currently take place almost exclusively during the two-week period leading up to July 1 free agency. Exceptions are granted for those clubs that have one or more salary arbitration cases later in the summer. By September’s training camps, no buyouts are allowed until the following June.
If a new CBA allowed for the buyout window to remain open, and perhaps the percentage of the buyout to be lowered, it also would encourage player movement. The typical buyout now allows clubs to discount a player’s salary by one-third, and also to pay him over twice the remaining term of the contract.
For example: a player with one year left at $5 million in salary would be reduced to $3.34 million, the remaining amount paid across two seasons at an annual rate of $1.67 million.
All those figures would be lowered, of course, if a player were bought out during the season, with some of his salary already paid.
The GMs, who will meet Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, also will discuss the possible reintroduction of the red line (i.e. whistling down two-line passes). Chiarelli is open to the discussion but has yet to form an opinion. Burke wants the rule left intact.
Commissioner Gary Bettman is widely credited - or cursed - for opening up the game full-throttle with the removal of the red line as part of the New NHL’s agenda out of the lockout. That perception alone means that it’s not likely to be restored soon, even with the growing belief around the league that its removal has contributed to the steady uptick in concussions.
“I’m not convinced one way or the other,’’ said Chiarelli. “I’d say four or five GMs that I’ve talked to feel the way I do, which is that there is a tremendous domino effect when you make a rule change.
“So let’s discuss it, and that’s not to say the discussion all links back to concussions. I don’t think anyone’s banging the table to bring it back, but there are enough people who want to talk about it.’’
Crosby won’t be back today
The Bruins are in Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee, and while Sidney Crosby is closer to getting back in the Penguins lineup for the first time in more than three months, he won’t face the Black and Gold. Sid the Kid, his career derailed by two knocks to the head in January 2011, hasn’t played since exiting the lineup after the Bruins played in Pittsburgh Dec. 5.
It took Crosby until late November to recover in full from last January’s hits, and then the 24-year-old superstar lasted all of two weeks before a fairly nondescript knock from David Krejci put him back on the shelf. Late last week, Crosby was entertaining the idea of playing this weekend, but after skating Saturday, he decided he needed a few more practices before reentering the lineup.
Meanwhile, teammate Evgeni Malkin, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, quietly and efficiently has put himself in contention for the Hart Trophy as MVP. Entering Saturday’s games, Malkin was second to Steven Stamkos in scoring (82 to 81) and second to Stamkos in goals (48 to 38).
While that may sound like more of a case for Stamkos, consider the wording of the qualifications for the Hart, which is for “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.’’ That’s a hard sell for Stamkos if his Lightning don’t make the playoffs.
In fact, if the Bolts post a DNQ, their fourth in five seasons, the MVP looks like a tossup among Malkin, Flyers wizard Claude Giroux, and one of two goalies - the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist or Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.
The pick here: Malkin. He is big, dynamic, makes plays, shoots, logs more than 21 minutes of ice time a game, and much to his credit, he has carried the Penguins in the wake of their captain’s absence.
Malkin twice has finished as the Hart runner-up, each time to countryman Alex Ovechkin (2008, 2009). While Ovie has all but fallen off the star-search radar, Malkin has fought off injury and positioned the Penguins to make a reasonable charge at the Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Bruins are in nasty business
Bruins fans don’t like to hear that their favorite team has gained a reputation around the league for dirty play, choosing to ignore well-deserved suspensions this season to Brad Marchand and Andrew Ference for menacing hits. Bad hits are bad hits, and those vacations were appropriate. The Bruins have a decided edge to their game - one that usually serves them well, and one that other fans and clubs increasingly resent. Consider: As of Friday morning, the Bruins had recorded 56 major penalties, tied with the Rangers for most in the league. They also had 958 penalty minutes, second only to the Flyers (1,058) and just a few face-washes and butt ends ahead of the Blueshirts (910). It’s a nasty game, folks, and the statistics show that the Bruins are nastier than most, right there with the long-reviled Broad Streeters.
Monument to greatness
Looking forward this week to my first glimpse of the Phil Esposito statue in Tampa, where Espo, captured in jacket and tie, is honored as the founding father of the Bolts (doing business since October 1992). A bronzed Esposito in Florida is an odd fit for those of us who remember the prolific, hulking pivot as a centerpiece of Big Bad Bruin glory, and with his No. 7 hanging in the Garden rafters. Red Wings fans can relate. They’ve long had Gordie Howe’s No. 9 hanging in Joe Louis Arena, but the Whalers did the same with his No. 9 at Hartford Civic Center following his three-year tour (1977-80) in Insuranceland. And of course Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 is retired in both Edmonton and Los Angeles.
Challenge for Carlyle
Randy Carlyle’s belief is that the Maple Leafs have to turn around their fortunes with a greater compete level and closer adherence to defensive responsibility, the latter point leading the Toronto media to speculate that Phil Kessel was in for torturous workouts under the new coach’s command. Don’t see that happening. Just as Joe Thornton will never be a shooter, Kessel is never going to carry his attack mode to the back half of the red line. But that’s OK. The trick will be for Carlyle to find the right combination of linemates and defensemen to share the ice with Kessel, cover his inconsistency. More than ever, successful coaches have to find a way to navigate around skilled players who don’t fit easily into their templates. Jumbo Joe and the Sharks, by the way, are close to falling out of playoff contention. Entering Saturday night’s game in Phoenix, the Sharks had won only two of their last dozen (2-7-3) and Thornton stood 0-4-4 with only three shots in his last five games.
Cherry’s act wears thin
Coach’s Corner took an ugly turn last Saturday when its icon, ex-Bruins coach Don Cherry, used the airwaves as his bully pulpit to pummel Leafs GM BrianBurke for not recruiting more good ol’ Ontario boys to the Toronto roster. For shame! Grapes then moved from diatribe to vendetta, accusing Burke of trying to get him fired from his TV job. Bizarro world. True, the Toronto roster is low on Ontario-born stock, but making that a point is to play on some very tired, shall we say, xenophobic tendencies. As for whatever personal beef Cherry has with Burke about job security, here’s an idea: take it up with the CBC human resources department, not a viewing audience that by now should be gaining a clearer picture that it’s time for crazy ol’ uncle Don to move permanently to the La-Z-Boy side of the whole TV experience. For the record, Toronto’s top picks in the last three amateur drafts: 2009, Nazem Kadri, born in London, Ontario; 2010, Brad Ross, born in Lethbridge, Alberta; 2011, Tyler Biggs, born in Binghamton, N.Y., and played a year of junior hockey in Toronto before joining the US National Team Development Program.
It’s a good bet the NHL GMs this week also will discuss tightening the rules on head shots and removing the trapezoids behind the nets. With interference all but erased as a tactic, defensemen are particularly vulnerable to big hits because their partners can’t aid in veering off charging forwards. If goalies were granted greater range to handle pucks behind the goal line, it might spare some defensemen from being rendered road kill.
Points to consider
He is by no means a classic defenseman, but Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson has to be among the top three choices for the Norris Trophy. Entering Saturday’s games, the third-year Swedish defenseman had 67 points, some 50 percent better than his closest competition from the backline, Florida’s Brian Campbell (44 points). An effortless skater - reminiscent of Hall of Famer Paul Coffey in that department - Karlsson scoots around the ice better than most forwards and cranks a light, blistering shot.
Zdeno Chara, his game still very strong but lacking Karlsson’s pizzazz, played his 993d career game Saturday vs. the Capitals. Provided he doesn’t need a game off in the coming days, he’ll log No. 1,000 March 24 in Los Angeles vs. the Kings. The day he signed with the Bruins as a free agent, July 1, 2006, Chara had a richer offer on the table from the Kings but opted to come to the Bruins because of the city and his belief that the club had a better chance to win a Cup.
The Bruins, who will get a second look at the Espo statue Tuesday night in Tampa, also will get their first glimpse of the new Mario Lemieux statue Sunday upon entering Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. No. 66’s homage, “Le Magnifique,’’ was unveiled last week . . . Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said Friday that he expects AHL goalie Anton Khudobin will need three weeks to recover from a wrist injury, which would get him back in gear around April 1. Ideally, Chiarelli would like the 25-year-old puck-stopper to play a game or two with the varsity prior to the playoffs, which begin the week of April 8. Marty Turco is not eligible to participate in the playoffs . . . By the way, best to refrain from referring to Turco as “the older, experienced backup.’’ Born Aug. 13, 1975, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he is some 16 months younger than Tim Thomas . . . With 16 games to play and 75 points in the standings, the Sharks are all but guaranteed not to finish with 100 points, a mark they hit for five straight seasons . . . Rangers boss Glen Sather last week made it sound like a fait accompli that Boston College junior Chris Kreider will be signed immediately upon the conclusion of the Eagles season and be brought straight to the Broadway roster. “We’re looking to have him come here,’’ Sather was quoted as saying in Newsday, “especially with all the injuries we’ve been having. He’s a great skater, he’s got size [6-3] and he’s one of the fastest skaters I’ve seen.’’ The Rangers took Kreider with the No. 19 pick in 2009, the same draft in which the Bruins used No. 25 to select Jordan Caron . . . Robert Klinkhammer. The fifth-year pro was called up recently by the Senators. Just a great hockey name, right there with the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck. “Yeah, but no offense to Klinkhammer,’’ one NHL executive said last week, “but I’d rather have Clutterbuck.’’
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.