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Must Be A Better Way

by Greg Millen / Toronto Maple Leafs
Before most NHL games the press room often becomes a casual meeting place for managers, scouts and retired players. Often league issues and the general state of the game are discussed.

At a recent game, with a general manager, a few ex-players and scouts in attendance, Wade Redden and Sheldon Souray playing in the AHL was the hot topic. The consensus is that “NHL established players”, that could help many teams, shouldn’t be playing in the AHL.

The present system is broken if players like Redden and Souray are in the AHL because of their inflated salaries. As sports fans I realize most of you have little sympathy for millionaire hockey players. Think of it this way, as a fan paying top dollars to watch an NHL game, don’t you want the opportunity to watch the best players in the world?

Before the lockout, teams could take on a portion of a player’s salary in a trade. The rules will not allow this in the present CBA. For example, back in the day, the Rangers could trade Redden and as part of the trade, the new team could take on some of his salary. The Rangers would win because they could get some value for Redden and at the same time reduce his salary on the books. The new team would win because they could improve their team at a salary which would fit their budget. Wade Redden would win because he would be playing in the NHL for his negotiated salary that he earned. And yes, the NHL as a whole, also would win! Why? For one you would have the best product possible on the ice.

Maybe just as important there would be a few mid-season trades which is virtually impossible in the present cap world. Perhaps the media outlets would be talking more about trade rumours and hockey talk then suspensions, headshots and the CBA. Wouldn’t that be refreshing!

I acknowledge that to accommodate the NHL’s cost certainly structure, there are some challenges to make this plan work. Some think this arrangement would benefit wealthy teams that could buy a Stanley Cup. Not so. Unlike most other sports hockey is the ultimate team game. A large payroll or a star player doesn’t always win you a championship. Just ask the New Jersey Devils!

Let’s hope the NHL governors start listening to smart hockey minds like Brian Burke and Dale Tallon who have been requesting salary sharing at every meeting they attend. For the fans sake it has to happen sooner than later!
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