Welcome back to my Prospect Ramblings this week! Today I look at the changes in asset management in the NHL, my early dark horse Calder prediction for the upcoming season, as well as the release of rosters for the upcoming Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario.
To most of us, we all knew this day would come.
Where the times of plenty would end, where the rules of economics would extend their constraining hand, and make us realize that infinite growth is an impossibility. Where General Managers could not simply sign big money contracts, all under the hopes that the cap would continue to inflate.
Hockey-Related-Revenue? No problem… when the pie gets too small, we’ll just find a way to make a bigger pie!
While this remains a workable concept in theory (as many theories do – communism, for example), reality must ultimately set in when said theories are placed into practice. In the hockey world, this idea is just now starting to find its realization on the second wave.
The first wave you ask? That one was around 2003, when the NHL realized that cost controls were needed. The idea of simply spending your way out of trouble became the root of all evil, as we lost hockey for far too long as a result. While one would think that the lessons of the dark times would have created a legacy, or at least a cautionary tale, of history repeating itself.
Sadly, no. Stupid is as stupid does… and in this case, stupid translates to David Clarkson, Bryan Bickell, and most recently Dave Bolland.
Behold… the NHL’s new, informal, “luxury tax”.
Now these situations are not all created equal. The David Clarkson situation found its solution rooted in the creativity and fiscal wherewithal that few franchises can boast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. In dealing the beleaguered winger for the broken-body that is Nathan Horton, they found a fortunate mistake in an uninsured contract that allowed them to buy their way out of trouble and acquire more cap space.
However, the Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland situations may appears to be the new normal in the NHL, as stagnant economic growth (and quite possible economic regression) raise their heads on the horizon. It is in this age that the art of asset management, quite possibly the most critical of all skills a GM must possess, shows its worth. The Carolina Hurricanes were the beneficiary of the Blackhawks misfortune, taking on the bloated contract of once ballyhooed playoff performer Bickell, where Chicago was forced to pay the “luxury tax” of highly-touted Teuvo Teravainen. Notch this once again, as the increasingly-shrewd John Chayka of Arizona capitalized on a similar situation in Florida by taking on the final five years of Dave Bolland’s ill-fated contract in exchange for also acquiring blue-chip prospect Lawson Crouse.
This new “luxury tax” is hardly a brand new idea, showing its roots right back to 2009 where the Toronto Maple Leafs made a controversial trade deadline deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Acquiring several injured players, and their corresponding contract values, with a fourth-round selection in exchange for Richard Petiot was essentially buying a fourth-rounder. Hardly earth shaking, but the nature of the deal was clear to all those observing. Further trades where players are sent to reduce cap-hits were hardly uncommon as well. The idea of paying others to take your mistakes has been clearly s