Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 01/27/10 at 12:11 PM ET
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
Since a salary cap was implemented coming out of the 2004-05 lockout, young players have become more proliferate in the NHL. Entry-level contracts come with their own salary restrictions, giving cap-conscious GMs a ready source of cheap labor. As a result, young players are being pushed to the big stage as soon as possible.
The heat gets turned up when these young players come up on their second contracts. Those who are deemed talented enough are signed long-term—to define a young core, save money, or both. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a classic example of this. They locked up Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal as soon as they could. They provided themselves some cost certainty in defining where the bulk of their money was going to be spent. They structured their roster so as to avert the most expensive forays into future free-agent markets.
If teams are going to pay long money on second contracts, it follows that the players who sign these contracts are expected to fill important roles sooner rather than later. Crosby & Co. are a textbook example of talented young players stepping nicely into such roles. The Penguins fired a tough coach, Michel Therrien, and elevated a softer, younger Dan Bylsma to achieve this result. And they won the Stanley Cup.
This sort of thinking now prevails. If a coach fails to extract the maximum from his young charges, said coach is in trouble.
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