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The Puck Stops Here

Waste Of An Entry Level Year

I think teams should be very careful in using 18 and 19 year old players on their roster.  There is an opportunity cost associated with it.  The player in question uses up a year of his entry level deal, where he will likely be a bargain to his team.  It pushes the player in question a year closer to unrestricted free agency, as that can occur after a player turns 27 or has seven years in the NHL, whichever happens first.  An 18 year old in the NHL will reach potential free agency at age 25.  This means that his team could lose the player in his prime, two years earlier than he otherwise would have been lost.  The loss of the cheap entry level years is also significant.  In a salary capped environment, teams win Stanley Cups when their roster significantly outplays their salary cap hits.  Entry level contract players are some of the best bargains who outplay their salary cap hits.  For example, last year Chicago had Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as entry level bargains in their Stanley Cup run.  This seems to be a near-mandatory step toward winning a Stanley Cup under the salary cap.

As young players improve, they become better players.  An 18 year old player will generally be better when he is 19 and better still when his is 20 and so on for the first few years of his career.  Thus he will be a better player and thus bigger bargain in his entry level contract and have a better chance of leading his team to Stanley Cup success.

Obviously, this concern is less important with a team that is a Stanley Cup contender today than it is for a team that is a ways from contention.  This is a reason why I would not recommend that Edmonton leaves Taylor Hall in the NHL this year.  When we combine this with the fact that Hall has not been a world beater so far this year (he has six points and a poor -8 +/- rating is significant ice time) I think the Oilers would be better served by keeping him in the minors this year.

There is another 18 year old rookie who is a more obvious call to return to the minors, but has been kept in the NHL anyway.  He is Alexander Burmistrov of the Atlanta Thrashers.  Burmistrov was picked eighth overall in the 2010 Entry Draft, so there is far less demand from the fans to keep him in the NHL than with Taylor Hall, who was a first overall pick.  Burmistrov has been unsuccessful so far.  He has four points to show for his 16 games played, while being protected from any tough competition. 

There is no good reason that Atlanta should be playing using a year of Burmistrov’s entry level contract.  He isn’t playing very well and isn’t being used in a significant role.  He would probably be better off playing against top competition and starring in the OHL.  Atlanta is losing one of the years when he could be a significant bargain and possibly help the Thrashers contend for the Stanley Cup.  Atlanta may be pushing Burmistrov toward free agency one year earlier.  They have had a problem with losing stars to free agency in the recent past.  Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa are probably the two most significant UFAs since the lockout and both came from Atlanta.

The Atlanta Thrashers have never had success in their history.  They have never won a Stanley Cup playoff game.  It is decisions like the one that they made on Alexander Burmistrov that keep them from this success.  It is a poor decision with a large opportunity cost and no real upside.

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Teebz's avatar

First, Taylor Hall can’t go to the minors. He either goes to junior which will serve no benefit whatsoever, or Edmonton eats his deal and keeps him in Edmonton which gives him an entire season of play against professional men. This is why keeping players like Hall, Seguin, and Skinner are good ideas for teams that have no real shot at making the playoffs - there’s little risk in having them develop when the expectations are low.

And if the player sets the world on fire like Jeff Skinner is, you’re probably glad to have kept him around in the first place. Either way, for a rebuilding club it’s a win-win situation to keep a high pick around. Your best example: Steven Stamkos.

Do you think he’d be where he is today if he had been sent back to junior hockey? His 46-point, 2008-09 season was hardly that of a Mario Lemieux rookie season, yet he shared the Maurice Richard award last season in a season where Tampa Bay was expected to do nothing. Letting him grow in the NHL was a wise move, and the Bolts are that much better for it.

As for Atlanta, they have a history of keeping their high picks in the NHL. Players like Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, and Evander Kane have all remained with the club in their first seasons. While none of them have developed as well as Stamkos has in TeeBay, all three of those players play a significant amount of minutes in Atlanta. Whether it was the previous system that hindered their development or another factor, I cannot say. The fact that Little and Kane have developed into decent NHL players on a terrible team says that there is little to no proof of “wasting” a year of development.

In fact, as a coach, I would not be doing my job in sending the player back to junior where he will not get any better. He would be challenged in the NHL, and be forced to work harder to keep up with the higher level of talent in the NHL than he would at junior. His struggles would certainly be a concern, but his confidence is what should be monitored.

After all, if a young player is willing to work hard and put in the time, he can make the jump to the next level. Steven Stamkos is valid proof of this.

Posted by Teebz on 11/13/10 at 01:54 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


When I say that Taylor Hall would be better served being in the minors of course I mean junior.

I am not discussing Jeff Skinner at all in my post.  He clearly is NHL ready.  That said, I think Jonathan Toews was NHL ready, when he was drafted in 2006 and the decision not to play him in the NHL until the next season was directly related to their Stanley Cup victory.  Chicago would not have won if they burned an extra year of Toews entry year contract and had to pay him market value last year.  I don’t know that Carolina would be hurt by keeping Skinner out of the NHL this year, but it is not nearly as clear a case as Burmistrov.

The case that Atlanta wasted a year by rushing Kane and Little to the NHL will be clearly made when they reach free agency.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 11/13/10 at 02:03 AM ET


Can’t really say much about the Thrashers past; it is what it is, but It’s clear you haven’t been following Burmy very closely. If you look at the surface you See a two goal, four point player, and natually assume he’s not Ready based on points. However, he’s one of the league leaders in drawing penalties, and plays a solid two way game, being used on the penalty kill, and has an even +/- rating. He’s also taking many key face-offs and winning them. While he hasn’t been lighting the lamp a lot, he’s creating a lot of time and space for his team mates while using his speed and puck handleing.
Sending him to the juniors wouldn’t help him in his development.

Posted by Mark C. on 11/13/10 at 05:23 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa are probably the two most significant UFAs since the lockout and both came from Atlanta.

In fairness, Hossa was not a Thrasher when he became a UFA, having been traded to Pittsburgh earlier that year.  His history doesn’t tie him to the Thrashers very well either, since he was unfortunate enough to be the guy closest to Dany Heatley’s value when the situation in Atlanta warranted a trade out of there for him.  Hossa had just signed his deal with Ottawa when he was traded.

Atlanta only marginally lost Hossa to free agency when they either knew he wasn’t going to resign or they knew they weren’t going to offer him the cash to resign.

Still, it’s a good point, that a team probably shouldn’t be using a young kid’s entry-level years unless it’s clear they’re going to become a contender sooner rather than later.  It might be a good strategy to stockpile two or even three years worth of kids and then play them all together with some higher-priced talent on shorter deals to take that run.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/13/10 at 05:54 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The idea that Burmistrov who scored 65 points last year in his first year in the OHL has nothing to learn from the league anymore is laughable.  Of course he can grow in the league.  Let’s look at Taylor Hall.  He got 84 points in his first OHL year and played two more seasons rising to 90 and then 106 points and getting a chance the take Windsor to the Memorial Cup. 

Burmistrov was not even at the level Hall was at in 2007/08 in the OHL and yet you say that he has nothing to gain from playing n the league?

However, all of this misses the point.  The point is that Atlanta gives up too much by pushing Burmistrov to the NHL at age 18.  They lose 2 years before he is a free agent.  They have his cheap years of his entry level contract start to early.  From an Atlanta standpoint it is a bad move even if he had little to gain from another year in the OHL, but he clearly has plenty of room that he could grow if he was given a second OHL season.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 11/13/10 at 05:57 PM ET


Ok maybe “nothing” to learn was a poor choice of words. However, I look at two things when determining whether to keep a player. 1) where will the player learn the most, and 2) whether the team would be better with or without said player.
Burmy will learn more in the big leagues, and the team is better with him. Why is this hard for people to see.

Posted by Mark C. on 11/13/10 at 10:42 PM ET


I’ll just defer to this video—-> http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/video_alexander_burmistrov_of_the_atlanta_thrashers/

Posted by Mark C. on 11/20/10 at 03:55 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Yes Mark that video sure is great when Burmistrov leaves Atlanta as a free agent at age 25.  That season that Atlanta missed the playoffs in 2010/11 where Burmistrov scored a wonderful 12 goals (his current pace) is sure better than saving him for his 26 year old season where he could score 3 times that number. 

Did you even read the post you think that video refutes?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 11/20/10 at 06:02 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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