NHL salaries make youngsters expendable


, Last Updated: 7:31 PM ET

All the young players weíve seen traded these past few days has brought back Ďthe hockey deal.í

Itís partly a byproduct of players receiving pricy contracts when theyíve finished entry-level deals.

Years ago, when players finished their entry-level contracts and didnít have arbitration rights, they didnít have the big-ticket deals.

Instead, those players, even the young standouts, had salaries which made it easy to live through a couple of years more of growing pains ó which happens when youíre dealing with skaters who are 21 to 23 years old. The potential upside always made it reasonable to keep them in the fold.

That changed with contracts weíve seen for the likes of Rick Nash, Dion Phaneuf and so many other players.

However, now that we have deals worth US$3 million to $6 million annually for these young stars, and when they donít deliver, clubs have to ask themselves tough questions.

Look at the trade between the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues which sent 2006 first-overall pick Erik Johnson and Jay McClement to Colorado for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart.

Or the one which saw Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart head to Boston for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik, a deal the Bruins needed to make to clear salary for the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle.

Going further back this season, the trade which sent Wojtek Wolski from the Phoenix Coyotes to the New York Rangers for Michal Rozsival was made, in part, because the Coyotes werenít willing to keep Wolski and his salary as a pending restricted free agent.

ďThereís no doubt not having that second contract any more has changed the dynamic,Ē said Flames acting GM Jay Feaster. ďItís a new dynamic thatís come out of the collective bargaining agreement, but I donít know if that motivated those deals.Ē

Not completely, but under the past system, teams were loathe to trade away young players before truly knowing how good they could be in their prime.

Going forward, those young players will become more often parts of deals used to shake up clubs.

Itís the price of those contracts, and an extra cost teams must consider.


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