Coming free agency fight
The Ottawa Sun reported Wednesday that several agents have informed them of their intention to take legal action against the League in order to get the restricted free agents among their clients declared unrestricted free agents, if a new CBA is not in place by July 1. Players whose contracts expire at the end of what should have been the 2004-2005 season would normally be receiving qualifying offers starting around now. On July 1, players who had not received qualifying offers would, under normal circumstances, become unrestricted free agents. That would obviously be the basis for the agents’ arguments in court.
Such a lawsuit, if the agents win, would have an enormous effect on the league, freeing up hundreds of players around the league. The League has said that player status will be determined when a new CBA is agreed on but the Sun points out that the NHLPA might be stalling on reaching a deal for that very reason. The kind of talent that could become available – players like Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza, or Dany Heatley, not to mention Sidney Crosby and other undrafted future stars – is something the Union would love to see on the open market.
While a free agent market like that would have formerly been a Wings fan’s dream, I think it wouldn’t be a good thing for the League. The NHL is going to go through enough chaos under the new CBA when teams have to re-shuffle their rosters to get under the bar that they don’t need the added mess of a massive free agent market. However, I guess it could make it easier for teams since they won’t have to worry about how to get rid of extra salary.
Fortunately for us, the Wings only have a couple RFA’s among their regulars. Unfortunately, they are also part of the foundation projected for the next major iteration of the franchise: Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg and Jason Williams. All three of those men had quality years in their respective leagues:
- Niklas Kronwall led the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL with 50 points in 73 games (12G, 38A). He won the Eddie Shore Award as the best defenseman in the league.
- Henrik Zetterberg led the SEL in scoring with 50 points over 50 games ( 19 G, 31 A) playing for Timra IK
- Jason Williams had 26 goals and 17 assists in 43 games playing in Finland for Assat Pori
The Wings certainly have the money to keep them in Detroit but under a new system and with the rise in stock they are bound to have due to their good years, it will be a lot tougher to fit them on the roster, if they do in fact become UFA’s.
The Wings have yet to reach a deal with their biggest current RFA, Pavel Datsyuk, and I’m not sure what would happen to his status if the agents go to court and win. I’d like to have an answer to that question.
How bad would it be to lose those four to free agency in one year? When combined with the inevitable gutting the Wings will undergo with the coming CBA, we could very well have nothing left worth watching.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if the NHL had just frozen all contracts during the lockout.
NHL VP Bill Daly calls the agents “misinformed” and says that the CBA will determine free agency, not the courts. Well, Bill, if the courts say RFA’s become UFA’s, the League’d pretty well have to listen, correct? Since when does the NHL override the courts? I’d rather not have the courts get involved but if they do, what they say goes, whether the NHL agrees or not. You’d better make sure of your legal standing, Daly, just in case those agents really do have a case.
The Czech WC team
The Czechs named their World Championship team earlier this week and they look to have about the strongest roster in the tournament, which isn’t surprising considering the talent pool they had to choose from. Of the two Czech Red Wings regulars, only one is on the roster for the Czech Republic: young defenseman Jiri Fischer. The other, Robert Lang, will not be playing in the tournament, not having played any professional hockey this year at all.
Fischer has been playing for Liberec Bili Tygri HC during the lockout. He missed the start of the season due to a shoulder injury sustained during the World Cup of Hockey in September but ended up playing 27 games and scoring 18 points (6 G, 12 A – note to self: Jiri is not a Nicklas Lidstrom, he’s more of a Chris Chelios).
He will be joining five other Wings (Datsyuk – RUS, Zetterberg, Kronwall – SWE, Maltby, Draper – CAN) in participating in the IIHF World Championship tournament, which starts later today.