McKenzie: Expiry of CBA significant for some young RFAs

Bob McKenzie

9/6/2012 12:03:55 AM

The expiry of the collective bargaining agreement on Sept. 15 is important beyond obvious reasons, especially for some of the National Hockey League's young guns currently without contracts.

And we're talking about high-profile restricted free agents coming out of entry-level deals - a group that includes Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban, Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane, forwards Jamie Benn in Dallas, Ryan O'Reilly in Colorado, Buffalo's Tyler Ennis, as well as defencemen Michael Del Zotto with the New York Rangers, Florida's Dmitri Kulikov and Washington's John Carlson.

Now these players would undoubtedly love to sign lucrative long-term deals in the same stratosphere as Jeff Skinner's six-year $34.35 million with the Carolina Hurricanes, or Jordan Eberle's and Taylor Hall's $6 million a year.

But none of these remaining restricted free agents appear close to getting something done and if they do, short term contracts appear more likely than long term ones.

Some of them would love to get Matt Duchene's two-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche worth an average of $3.5 million, but the clubs are taking a hard line on these emerging stars who have shown great potential but may not have fully developed.

When the NHL constructed the collective bargaining agreement seven years ago, it thought players coming out of their entry-level deals would be in a tough spot with no arbitration rights.

But a lot of precocious third-year players have nevertheless hit the jackpot. Aside from the obvious NHL-NHLPA dispute on how to divvy up revenue, this issue of reining in salaries on entry-level grads is a front-burner for many NHL general managers.

If the CBA negotiations get going and beyond the core monetary issues, putting a drag on these salaries may be a league priority.

So if you're P.K. Subban, do you take the two-year deal from the Canadiens for less money than you would like, or do you take your chances in a new CBA with unknown qualities on entry-level, salary arbitration or unrestricted free agency?

If you're Evander Kane, do you take a long-term deal or short-term deal for less money than you would like from the Jets, or just wait for the new CBA?

There may be an impetus to sign before the expiry of the CBA on Sept. 15 (the devil you know), but some of the clubs may choose to shelve it until there's a new CBA.

Either way, it's an intriguing sidebar issue to the ongoing labour dispute affecting a high-profile group of players.