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Devils Waste An Entry Level Year Too

In the salary capped NHL, teams gain an advantage when their players produce a bigger value to their team than the price of their contract.  It is necessary that several players exceed the value of their contract for a team to win the Stanley Cup.  The most likely player to exceed his contract value is a player on an entry level deal.  Thus it is very important not to waste the years in your entry level deals. 

A player who is drafted at age 18 can enter the NHL immediately and play on his entry level deal for his first three years of his pro career.  This will be ages 18, 19 and 20.  Instead a player can be returned to junior and defer those years until he is 20, 21 and 22.  You can trade-off a player's 21 and 22 year old seasons for his 18 and 19 year old seasons if you rush a player into the NHL at a young age.  A player will be better at ages 21 and 22 and thus be more likely to exceed to value of his contract at those ages.  Instead of following that advice, NHL teams like to rush players into the league before they are ready and waste their entry level years.

Buffalo wasted the entry level year of Mikhail Grigorenko recently returning him to junior after barely giving him any playing time.  They are not the only team making this mistake.  The New Jersey Devils have done the same with a lesser prospect than Grigorenko who was given even less chance to play in the NHL.

Stefan Matteau was returned to Blainville-Boisbriand in the QMJHL yesterday.

Matteau was New Jersey's pick 29th overall in the 2012 Entry Draft.  During the lockout he scored 28 points in 35 games.  That doesn't sound like an NHL ready 18 year old to me but the Devils thought otherwise and put him on their roster at the beginning of the season.  They dressed him in 17 of 29 games, making him a healthy scratch 12 times.  In his roughly nine minutes a game he scored a goal and two assists.  He wasn't NHL ready and he wasn't even good enough to get a serious shot. 

New Jersey wasted the first year of his entry level deal.  It's not a smart move.  While it may not sound like a big deal now, it might become a big deal in the future.  This is a mistake that NHL teams should be able to avoid but they are not.

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According to Pierre McGuire, Grigorenko was returned to juniors because Buffalo didn’t want an impressionable rookie exposed to a dysfunctional locker room where everyone was at one another’s throats. Perhaps letting him make such a team in the first place was the wrong move, but once they found themselves in such a position, burning a year seems to me a better choice than the alternative.

Posted by larry on 03/19/13 at 01:17 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I would argue that letting their dressing room get so dysfunctional is the biggest mistake.  Keeping Grigorenko in their line-up at the start of the season was a second mistake.

Pierre McGuire equating the two is largely story telling.  It is an attempt to make a bad Buffalo move make sense in the context of other bad Buffalo moves.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/19/13 at 03:22 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

There was a comment regarding the Grigorenko deal in your last post that you ignored.  I was wondering what your take on it was.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 03/19/13 at 11:38 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It appears that the consensus is Grigorenko will not be counted as having burned a season in his entry level deal despite having been in the NHL for more than half of their season.  Given the fact that the CBA is not actually written in its entirety yet it is hard to verify that.  To me it seems like a case of having your cake and eating it too if you have a player in the NHL more than half of a season and it doesn’t count as a season.  I think that kind of decision could be fought successfully if anyone so desired.  In fact I think Matteau is an interesting example here.  Given how frequently he was scratched by the Devils it is possible that he could spend the entire season in the NHL and not play enough games for it to count as his having played a season.  That is an entirely ridiculous proposition but as the NHL rules are being reported it seems to be consistent with them.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/20/13 at 12:12 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.

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