NHL salaries make youngsters expendable

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, 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.

FLAMING C-NOTES

Take note all those who criticized the re-signing of Olli Jokinen last summer. In the 26 games since Christmas, Jokinen has collected 26 points (6-20-26). Thatís more than Jarome Iginla (11-14-25) over the same period. Pretty impressive since Iginla was sitting 11th in the leagueís scoring race prior to Thursdayís action ... Also worth noting is that Curtis Glencross is third on the teamís post-Christmas points parade with a team-best 13 goals and 21 points. It would be great if the team could re-sign him, but we canít help but think heíll be gone as a free agent this summer ... Every time Steve Staios becomes a regular in the Flames lineup, does anybody ask why Jay Bouwmeester canít or wonít jump into the rush as often as Staios? Lord knows Bouwmeester has the skating ability and then some ... Even if goalie Miikka Kiprusoff plays every game for the rest of the season, heíll still play the fewest games in a post-lockout campaign. Right now, the highest total for him is 73.

HOCKEY TALKY

Maybe weíre a sucker for a comeback story, but hereís hoping Ray Emery has a successful comeback with the Anaheim Ducks, both on and off the ice. Emery had his issues, and will admit to them, but anybody who can return from that health crisis with his hip with supposedly a new attitude deserves a shot ... If the Carolina Hurricanes make the playoffs, it will also come while overcoming a strange schedule. Of their final 27 games, the Hurricanes play 10 sets of games on consecutive nights. Sure, itís Eastern Conference travel, but this is also a team which started the year in Europe and returned to North America for a five-game road swing all the way to the West Coast ... Putting the goal-scoring struggles of the Washington Capitals into perspective. Prior to Thursdayís action, the Capitals were 19th in the league with a per-game goal total of 2.67, which is worse than mustered by the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres.

YOU DONíT SAY

ďItís weird. It feels like you donít deserve it sometimes ó what am I doing to deserve this?Ē

Toronto goalie James Reimer on his paycheques with a NHL salary of US$550,000. We can sure hope he doesnít forget to appreciate that salary.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak

FARM REPORT

Donít underscore the value of the Flames summoning Lance Bouma from the minors. That move rejuvenated the players in the AHL, who were starting to wonder whether they would be given a chance to play in Calgary ... The Heat, who play host to the Providence Bruins this weekend, remain without a trio of concussed forwards in Mitch Wahl, Carter Bancks and 2004 first-round choice Kris Chucko. Those three were in Calgary recently to see a concussion specialist and among the activities they canít do is play video games ... On a positive, D John Negrin is expected to return soon from an early season knee surgery, removing broken screws in his knee put in place last season.


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