Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 08/01/05 at 08:44 AM ET
Nobody really knows what to expect when the first capped free-agent market in NHL history opens today at noon. But here's what not to expect: a rush of unrestricted upper-end talent signing for discount prices to accommodate general managers claiming and complaining they won't be able to maintain (or build) a winning team unless players are willing to take less. Lifestyle preferences will play a part in the decision making process, of course, and each individual has his own unique priorities, but it would be naive to expect people like Scott Niedermayer, Nikolai Khabibulin and Markus Naslund not to seek as close to the max $7.8M contract permitted under the CBA after losing millions last year and going forward in a capped open market — and how's that for a paradoxical concept? A new model will emerge under this restrictive CBA, and it's likely to be one that's completely antithetical to anything we've ever seen before in hockey. Some creative GM somewhere is going to recognize that a championship team can be constructed by signing two or three elite players to 20-percent-of-the-cap max contracts and then filling the rest of the roster with draft choices and inexpensive support players who will be close to a literal dime a dozen.
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