by PuckStopsHere on 09/11/12 at 10:38 PM ET
The current NHL CBA is set to expire on September 15th - this upcoming Saturday. When it does the NHL players will be locked out and the rules governing contracts will change whenever hockey returns. As a result of expected changes - which may go as far as having players on their second contracts tied to an entry level type deal - some teams have acted to sign up their restricted free agents to longterm big money deals. Examples of these include Jeff Skinner, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Teams are signing players to deals they may not be allowed to sign in a new CBA - this shows the hypocrisy of the whole situation that teams race to sign their players to deals while arguing these deals should not be allowed anymore in the league.
Other restricted free agents remain without contracts. John Carlson, Michael Del Zotto, PK Subban, Tyler Ennis, Ryan O'Reilly, Jamie Benn and Evander Kane are all high profile restricted free agents who do not have new contracts and with the Saturday deadline drawing near it looks like they will not be signed under this CBA. A new more restrictive CBA will likely force them to sign contracts for less money and less security.
Likely we will see one or two of these people sign just before the deadline because deadlines always induce some action, but we are seeing a split between the way teams feel about players on their second contract. Some teams are content to wait until a new more restrictive agreement before they re-sign their players in an effort to get a discount. Other teams are racing to sign their young players now while they still can sign them for a long period of time. Teams in the second group cannot be too concerned about giving away big second contracts to players - since they are rushing to do so. One one level this shows that all owners are not too committed to all of the demands the NHL has made. On another it shows a strategic shift between different groups of teams. Will teams be rewarded for showing loyalty to their young talent by keeping them well into their unrestricted free agency years by handing out contracts today, while teams that wait wind up losing them as soon as they can leave? Will the teams racing to sign players today regret their move if the market shifts to make these contracts well above the new market value? Time will tell, but I think this decision is a very significant one for many teams.
The new CBA will bring in new rules for restricted free agents. Some teams are rushing to sign them under the old rules and others are waiting for the new rules. When we look back on this decision, I think we will see one group made a much better decision than the other. Which group will it be?
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