by PuckStopsHere on 03/19/13 at 12:46 AM ET
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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