Who Would Go To The Minors In The Event of A Lockout?

Jonathan Willis
August 13 2012 09:57AM

Should labour negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA fail, and a lengthy lockout occur, the Oklahoma City Barons have the potential to be one of the most potent clubs in modern AHL history.

Let’s take a step back to the 2004-05 NHL lockout for a moment: young NHL’ers flooded the minor leagues in droves. 2001 second overall pick Jason Spezza, fresh off a 55-point season in the NHL, led the league in scoring, recording 117 points over an 80-game schedule. The third overall pick in 2002, Jay Bouwmeester, spent 2004-05 in the AHL after two full NHL seasons. The fourth overall pick that year, Joni Pitkanen, had completed one NHL season when he won the AHL championship with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Eric Staal, the second overall pick in 2003, scored at a point-per-game pace for Lowell after completing his rookie NHL season.

Other top young players also spent time in the AHL after being (relatively) established NHL players. Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Brent Burns, Dan Hamhuis, Anton Volchenkov, Joffrey Lupul, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Stajan all played in the minors. The Oilers sent two NHL’ers to the AHL during the last lockout: Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll both found employment with the short-lived Edmonton Roadrunners.

Of course, many players also went overseas and played in Europe. Most of those were veterans but some – such as 2002 first overall pick Rick Nash – were younger.

This Time Around

This time, the potential AHL assignments are a little mind-boggling. Taylor Hall, who has not yet played 160 games, can be assigned to the minors without needing to clear waivers. Ditto for Jordan Eberle. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has only played one NHL season; he could be sent down as well. New signee Justin Schultz, fresh off his college career, is another candidate for work in Oklahoma City. Naturally, other players – Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander and the like – would also play in the minors.

That’s not to say all of those guys would go – Hall and Eberle, without question, could find work in Europe if they wanted it. Likely Nugent-Hopkins could too.

On the other hand, there simply isn’t the same level of doom and gloom in CBA negotiations now as there was in 2004-05. Back then, players could head to Europe with reasonable confidence that they would be playing hockey over there for at least a few months – and with exit clauses if the NHL did fire back up midway through the year. The possibility of a full-season lockout was always recognized – after all, the owners wanted to change the very financial model of the game.

That isn’t the case this year. The NHL and NHLPA may have considerable distance to go before they agree to terms, but there isn’t the same sort of talk about flushing a full season. Most expect the league to play at least an abbreviated season.

With that in mind, will it make sense for players like Hall and Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins to pack up for Europe if a deal hasn’t been reached by mid-September? Or would it make more sense to accept a demotion to Oklahoma City and play a month or two of minor-league hockey while waiting for a deal to be finalized?

I don’t know the answer to that. But it’s interesting to image the roster that Todd Nelson might find at his disposal in October.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Aitch
August 13 2012, 10:01AM
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all of our fist overalls... and then some!

Actually come to think of it, can RNH be assigned to OKC or is still CHL-eligible? Yakupov would have to go back to Sarnia I presume?

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#2 Dipstick
August 13 2012, 10:03AM
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You have to expect that anyone able to secure a contract in Europe would prefer that to a much diminished salary in the AHL. The benefit of spending some time in interesting exotic locales would be the icing on the cake.

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#3 dawgtoy
August 13 2012, 10:03AM
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May cooler heads prevail and the season start ontime.

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#5 Spydyr
August 13 2012, 10:15AM
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This is nothing new.The Oiler team was the best AHL team the last 3 years.Only problem being they were playing in the NHL.

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#6 Mark-LW
August 13 2012, 10:20AM
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Another thing to consider is the willingness of European teams bumping their regular roster players for someone who may only play a couple of weeks. I'm sure they would for the really elite NHL players, but not so sure about others.

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#7 justDOit
August 13 2012, 10:27AM
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I would hope that the proven young players in the lineup not go to the AHL. Guys like Yakupov and J. Schultz could use the time to learn about the pro NA game, but I don't see the need to overwhelm the OKC roster for a few weeks just to keep Ebs, Hall and RNH busy.

The other side to that is, obviously, if the NHL started up play in early November, players not on a regular roster will be much slower to get into game shape.

An interesting side-note: It seems the h*ckeyb*zz Oiler blogger is starting a twitter movement to boycott all NHL/NHLPA services if there's a lockout. Sounds like a worthy cause, but I don't twit.

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#9 geoilersgist
August 13 2012, 10:39AM
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Would be good for OKC to get off to an unbelievable start if the three of them played down there for a month if thats all the lockout lasts... Hopefully the season starts on time.

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#10 Professor
August 13 2012, 11:00AM
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@ Jonathan Willis

Just for curosity sake, what would happen with the entry level bonuses if the season is cut short? Say they played 41 games instead of 82? If there is a bonus for scoring 20 goals in an 82 game season would that be decreased to a bonus for scoring 10 goals in a 41 game season or would the bonus still be for 20 goals in the 41 game season? Would the targets for bonuses decrease if it is a shortened season?

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#11 Dman09
August 13 2012, 11:16AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Yakupov would be back in junior.

Being Russian though doesn't he have the option of playing in the AHL? I thought the whole returning to the Juniors thing was for North American born players only.

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#12 westcoastoil
August 13 2012, 11:22AM
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Whether it was OKC or Europe, what you'd really like to see is ideally all 3 of them going to the same team so they could continue to develop their chemistry.

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#13 OilW30
August 13 2012, 11:30AM
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It would also be interesting to consider how many career minor leaguers lose their livelihoods because two sets of millionaires can't decide how to divide up their riches.

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#14 Oiler Al
August 13 2012, 11:34AM
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Hall, for one should take the time to continue healing and rehabing his shoulder.

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#15 Rama Lama
August 13 2012, 11:43AM
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The sad truth is before either side accepts an offer, they have to play the game of going back and forth in incremental steps until they arrive at the place that both sides know will, "seal the deal".

Why not just go to binding arbitration and forget the back and forth sh-t! Come on how hard can it be, let's get the government minister to declare hockey an essential service and force both sides to arbitration!

Screw the collective bargaining game and let's go people!

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#16 OilLeak
August 13 2012, 12:24PM
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Dman09 wrote:

Being Russian though doesn't he have the option of playing in the AHL? I thought the whole returning to the Juniors thing was for North American born players only.

Why in the world would birthplace have anything to do with where Yakupov plays hockey or any other player for that matter?

Yakupov has to go back to Junior if a lockout occurs due to his age and being drafted out of the CHL.

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#17 @Oilanderp
August 13 2012, 12:28PM
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For once, the hockey stadium might have more people in it than the churches in OKC.

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#18 Thirteen
August 13 2012, 12:41PM
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What about ELCs? If there is a full lockout and Nuge/Hall/Ebs play in the AHL will that not burn another year of ELC?

How does playing in Europe impact that?

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#19 justDOit
August 13 2012, 12:42PM
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Well, purportedly, Brule has signed with a Euro team for the coming season. Probably a good move on his part, if this CBA negotiation drags on even a couple of months.

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#20 Word
August 13 2012, 01:04PM
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Jonathan, insofar as injuries are concerned do you think that it's generally easier on a player's body to be in a Euro League vs. the AHL?

I'd be concerned to have Hall, Eberle and Nuge playing a "never ending pre-season" where 5th and 6th line guys would be running around trying to impress their respective NHL affiliate GMs.

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#21 Reg Dunlop
August 13 2012, 01:35PM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

For once, the hockey stadium might have more people in it than the churches in OKC.

Do you mean the ice-hockey stadium?

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#22 godot10
August 13 2012, 01:40PM
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I believe the Oilers would be obligated to send both Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov back to the CHL, as both are still junior eligible and were drafted out of the CHL.

I also believe AHL-eligible players don't have the European option unless the NHL club consents to it.

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#23 Reg Dunlop
August 13 2012, 01:45PM
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For the 1st time I am pessimistic about a full 2012-13 season. Bettman announcing that the league will lock-out the PA upon expiration of the CBA if a new deal is not reached... expected posturing but greed and stupidity are going to cost us oil hockey until the new year. BOHICA, sports fans.

Also, thanks to the powers that be for the blue background return. Now I can save my glacier glasses for my summit attempt on Annapurna.

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#24 Charlmov
August 13 2012, 02:03PM
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Dont benefit our team if regular nhl players stealing minutes from our developing prospects.better they went off for europe,hall,hemsky and whitney can stay home training and recover their health-issues.

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#25 the big GRIGowski
August 13 2012, 02:32PM
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Charlmov wrote:

Dont benefit our team if regular nhl players stealing minutes from our developing prospects.better they went off for europe,hall,hemsky and whitney can stay home training and recover their health-issues.

If the kids want to play in the AHL I'm willing to risk the development of a couple of young men who likely won't ever play in the NHL.

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#26 David S
August 13 2012, 03:19PM
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Does this mean Wanye might be "doing more work" in OKC this coming winter?

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#27 Cody anderson
August 13 2012, 03:34PM
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What happens with the draft if there is a full season lockout. Would we get another lottery pick?

It would kill me not to have hockey, but another 1st overall would make us the best team on the planet in a couple of years.

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#28 Wax Man Riley
August 13 2012, 04:09PM
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Cody anderson wrote:

What happens with the draft if there is a full season lockout. Would we get another lottery pick?

It would kill me not to have hockey, but another 1st overall would make us the best team on the planet in a couple of years.

Wouldn't the same thing happen as the last lockout? When Crosby was drafted, every team in the league had an equal chance at the #1 pick.

Seems fitting that the "next one" McKinnon could also be up for anyone in the league.

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#29 Cervantes
August 13 2012, 04:33PM
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Their cap hit may be $3M+, but their actual paycheque is a lot smaller. I'd be really surprised if they didn't head to SEL or KHL or something. I'm sure there's plenty of teams that would be willing to hand them a $2M cheque up front and not care if they bail when the NHL season starts. Crushing your opponents for only 20 games is better than not.

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#30 Oilertrades
August 13 2012, 04:35PM
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yakupov would go back to the CHL. but just think of not only our AHL team, but also the world juniors. we could potentially see nuge, yak, klefbom, musil, gernat and Zharkov in action. even with a lock out, we'd still have some exciting hockey to look forward to. still crossing my fingers it doesnt come to this though

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#31 Peacecountry
August 13 2012, 04:50PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

Wouldn't the same thing happen as the last lockout? When Crosby was drafted, every team in the league had an equal chance at the #1 pick.

Seems fitting that the "next one" McKinnon could also be up for anyone in the league.

Every team had a shot at Crosby but not equal. Its my understanding that teams were given from one to three balls depending on how they finished the previously played season. Except for the team that finished last.

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#32 AutoOiler
August 13 2012, 04:57PM
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The crazy thing about a potential Crosby lottery is Mackinnon is from the same town.

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#33 oilcountry90
August 13 2012, 05:03PM
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From Yakupov's perspective, signing a 1-year contract in the KHL with an NHL out-clause would be the smart money. Make millions tax-free in your home country while playing against men. Better than going back to Sarnia and getting paid almost nothing to play against teenagers.

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#34 Dog Train
August 13 2012, 05:57PM
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As exciting as the prospect of having a super team in the AHL sounds, I would be more concerned about the impact on the prospects below them. I want to see guys like Pitlick, Hamilton and Lander play important roles in OKC. Moreover, I just want the NHL season to start on time. We already put up with enough of this garbage last time the CBA came up. Let's get a whole season in.

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#35 Bradley Black
August 13 2012, 07:32PM
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@Aitch

Latest from the rumour mill gagner and paajarvi for leopold and enroth out of buffalo.Also talks about hall for myers but I can't see Tambo being that stupid.lol

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#36 madjam
August 13 2012, 07:44PM
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Yakupov looks like he is going back to junior even without a lockout . The kid has got to learn how to play defence , backcheck and play a headier game without the puck . No way he's going make our club this year with only a one way Nhl talent . His deficiencies make me question why we drafted him first overall with only a one way talent at his repetoire or disposal . Looks like Schultz migfht be the only new addition this year , as i don't see Yakupov developed enough to play in NHL yet . They might keep him for powerply only , but i don't believe thats in clubs best interestr or his own at this stage .

Did Oiler scouts not see all Yakupov's glaring weaknesses i wonder ? Really disappointed in what i have seen of his game in Canada -Russia series .

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#37 vetinari
August 13 2012, 07:48PM
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I am shocked... Where's the obligatory photo of the endowed blonde with the Okla( )homa shirt?

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#38 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
August 13 2012, 08:19PM
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David S wrote:

Does this mean Wanye might be "doing more work" in OKC this coming winter?

Wanye? Work? Ha Ha

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

Ha you made me laugh

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#39 Dan_H
August 13 2012, 10:05PM
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But on maybe a bright side how sick would that world junior team be? Could/would the Nuge play if he went to Europe?

Still prefer the kids to be in NHL jerseys all year.

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#40 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 13 2012, 10:41PM
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How would they fit into NewAgeSyt NHS at the AHL level?

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#41 RexLibris
August 13 2012, 11:50PM
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I'm with dogtrain on this one.

As much as the idea of an AHL superteam is enticing, if only to further flaunt the Oilers' depth of talent to the rest of the NHL, I'd be concerned about losing a year of development for the second tier of prospects; namely Hamilton, Pitlick, and Lander.

Ideally Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Paajarvi, Lander, Pitlick, Hamilton, Marincin, Pelss, Reider, and the rest of the kids could go and play together in OKC, have a blast, win the Calder, and create a real synergy as a team and a collection of competitive athletes. Unfortunately, that isn't likely to work out that way. Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi's ice time would likely come at the expense of Pitlick and Hamilton and might only further delay their development.

If it happens, terrific and I'll cheer like heck for OKC to really take the boots to Abbotsford and the Chicago Wolves, physically and on the scoreboard. If not, then hopefully these young men go and hone their craft responsibly.

I will say, though, that in the event of any prolonged work stoppage, the circumstances would likely benefit the Oilers in the long term while hurting or absolutely crippling some of our regional rivals.

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#42 the big GRIGowski
August 14 2012, 02:12AM
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@RexLibris

I'm not sure I agree. The only players whose development I'm worried about won't be affected by our young guns moving down. A strong argument could be made that playing with elite players on a daily basis is only going to aid in their development.

I have absolutely no idea how many AHLers make and stick with the big squad but I have a hard time believing that 4-6 guys moving down is going to be detrimental to the development of our prospects that have a legitimate shot at the NHL.

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#43 pelhem grenville
August 14 2012, 07:12AM
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David S wrote:

Does this mean Wanye might be "doing more work" in OKC this coming winter?

my sources tell me... Wanye is, as we speak, with a realtor in Oklahoma City asking...

"Before we buy our house here for the lockout time, we want you to know we won't be living anywhere but next door to that girl with the Oklamhoma t-shirt cut low in the front that LT uses so much for his stories on the interweb in Canada..."

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#44 Mark
August 14 2012, 08:25AM
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If there was a lockout this year, would RNH be WJC eligible then? Or is he too old?

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#45 bardfromedson
August 14 2012, 10:23AM
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it would be a blessing in disguise if justin schultz got a month or 2 in the ahl with a lockout before making the jump. its going to be a big step up in competition and a few games in the A would make things go a lot smoother before he gets thrown into the fire.

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#46 K_Mart
August 15 2012, 01:40AM
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As a fan I believe we should be supporting the owners on this one. I support the NHL as a business and I want to see it grow and succeed.

These owners did not get billions by blowing their money. The more money they get, the more they will use it to increase profits for the business. In order for the game of hockey to have the best chance at growing and succeeding in the U.S. the owners need to build their businesses properly. That requires money. Giving the owners more money will result in better arenas, better marketing, and in the end, more money for the players as well. If you hand all the money to the players, then it all gets blown. Whereas the owners are far more likely to put that money back into the business with the hopes of increasing profits.

If you want the NHL as a business to succeed, then dont handcuff the people running it.

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