Babcock knows about caps

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

You have to admire Rob Babcock for answering "no comment" on an equal-opportunity basis.

The Raptors general manager declined comment back when his league, the NBA, was negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with its players. Of course, the threat of being fined weighed heavily on his mind.

But there was no threat of monetary punishment yesterday when Babcock was asked for his thoughts on the agreement in principle that has been reached on the NHL labour front.

"As far as I know, nothing is official yet," Babcock said, referring to the fact that both sides in the hockey wars have to ratify the contract. "So I'd better not comment. I don't want to get into any trouble."

Never mind that Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson commented openly about the tentative NHL deal on Wednesday. Babcock is nothing if not respectful of protocol.

Babcock was a little more forthcoming when asked if Ferguson soon is going to realize that GMs in salary-cap systems have a more complex job than GMs in non-salary-cap systems.

NBA teams have been capped for decades, while NHL clubs will be dealing with that limitation for the first time.

"Well, maybe it's tougher with a cap," said Babcock, on the phone from Minnesota, where the Raptors have an entry in a summer league that formally gets under way today.

"Then again, if you're in a system with no cap, you had better have rich owners. If you have an owner who doesn't want to spend any money, you're sort of finished anyway."

Babcock did acknowledge that trade speculation can spiral out of control in a cap system. After all, you don't have to be a genius to add up salaries and determine which teams have the cap room to add this player or that player, and which teams are capped out.

"Yeah, sometimes rumours start out of nowhere and the players who are mentioned get all upset," Babcock said.

"But in a cap system everyone plays under the same rules, so no one will feel sorry for you."

Speaking of potential trades, Babcock said he has been on the phone for "six or seven hours every day" since the NBA draft late last month, investigating transactions and free-agent availability.

"You know how these things go, though," Babcock said. "The chances of getting something done on the trade front undoubtedly are slim, merely because the chances always are slim. Usually you end up working your butt off trying to get something done, and then nothing happens."

Babcock certainly hopes that isn't the case with regard to free agency.

The cap-constricted Raptors have the mid-level exception to dole out, but they hope part of that will be taken up by the re-signings of restricted free-agents Matt Bonner and Pape Sow.

"We're in discussions with both of them," Babcock said.

"I'm optimistic, but it's not completely up to me. It's up to them, too."

Meanwhile, there were media reports in Croatia yesterday that the Raptors have agreed to terms with second-round draft pick Roko Ukic.

That would mean the Raptors have arranged to buy out Ukic's contract with his pro team overseas, in addition to negotiating a new pact with Ukic. He has a chance to fill a gaping hope at backup point guard next season if he's ready to play.

"We're talking, but nothing's done," Babcock said. "We're hopeful, but nothing has been solidified."

Of course, NBA signings can't officially be announced until next Friday. So maybe Babcock merely was following the rules as closely in this case as he was when asked about the new NHL agreement.

Regardless, deals happen all the time, no matter who talks about them and who doesn't.

And when Rob Babcock and John Ferguson do get around to talking to each other, they undoubtedly will have a lot more in common to talk about.


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