Preface: Everyone can feel free to bark and scream at the title to this blog post, but if you manage to read through this long-winded explanation then you will begin to understand (and appreciate) its meaning.
I'll start by saying this is one of my days of the year (behind Trade-Deadline Day, in which I have been "sick" my fair share to watch the entire TSN broadcast, and right in front of the NHL Draft). It's funny though to sit here and try and compare it to the trade deadline or the draft because this is a completely different animal. For one thing, the NHL Draft has 200+ future NHLers who are just excited at the opportunity to hear their names called, go to their hometown team/rival, or play alongside a hero/mentor. With the trade-deadline, there is very little control a player has in the decision (unless you are player in Calgary with a NMC/NTC; someone has to explain why Feaster always does this. He crucifies himself with these ridiculous inclusions in contracts) no matter much he may yell and scream to the press about the idea of leaving the team/going to another team. But none of these things match up with the current way the NHL Free Agent Period is being handled.
Before the salary cap existed, you had guys like Petr Nedved signing contracts with the money-baron teams (like the New York Rangers, for one) at a clip of 3 years and $27 million. If you compare his stat line in his career to that of a player making even $7 million a year today, there is zero comparison; Nedved was clearly part of an era that allowed mediocre players to get paid very handsomely. Players were making bank, similar to the way basketball player's salaries are designed today even with a cap. But with the addition of the cap in the NHL, things have drastically changed.
And here is where the pageantry comes in. How many teams did we hear about, through different media outlets, that were traveling to Toronto to meet with Parise and his agent, to visit Suter and his camp, or even to a defenseman with ZERO NHL experience in Justin Schultz? Yes, every player has the right to pick and choose the team they want to go to, as is their right and privilege attached to having UFA rights. But the pageant that this day is turning into is quite ridiculous. It seems like the next logical progression for a day like this is to put each player (or maybe the top 100 players, based on whatever ranking someone wants to come up with) in a big expo-center or something similar in size, and have a "job fair" for lack of a better title. You don't hear about teams flying out to meet with potential players in the NHL draft (it's the other way around) or flying out to meet with other GM's at their respective residences and discussing trades, or even meeting with potential trade personell and discussing the trade with them.
Again, just so this point doesn't get lost in everything I have said, I absolutely love the first of July for the free agent period, but it doesn't mean I love the way that this process is handled. I cannot sit here and say that there is a better way to handle something like this, but I feel that the "reverse Miss Universe" aspect of this (being that the judges are the player & agent(s) and the contestants are the teams) is a bit of weird dance, most likely for both sides of the table. I cannot imagine that the GM's, coaches, owners, players, and even legends of that particular franchise love the idea of meeting/talking with a player that may already have his mind up, and just being this to gain more air-time (or those few who feel a $7million deal is not enough, and desperately need that extra million or two on their bottom-line).
For those less fortunate to have not witnessed or not earn these dollar figures (which includes myself and about 99.9% of the hockey-viewing population), imagine getting out of college and knowing where you want to be. I'll take my position for example. I want to be working in the financial world, specifically as a Equity Research Analyst (for those who don't know what that means, basically analyze stocks based on valuation characteristics and look at potential growth in that particular company. For a more detailed explanation, google it). I get out of college and I sit there with my cell phone waiting to get calls from some of the big names in asset-managing. BlackRock, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and TCW come calling (that's the equivalent to a Detroit, NY Rangers, San Jose, LA, and Chicago approaching a top free agent). I sit there and know I want to go to Merrill but I let the 4 along for the ride to see what I can come back to Merrill with to raise the price (just as a side note, I do not work for any of these 5 firms as a permanent employee).
Explain to me how any of these firms would either: A. come to me and actually do this or B. sit there and actually try to make a pitch for me to come there. In the real world things happen THE OTHER WAY. I would have to go to them and give my pitch to THEM and hope THEY hire me, not the way things work in the NHL. If things worked in NHL they way things work in the rest of the world regarding jobs, then NHL players would be paying NHL teams to allow them to play for their teams, not the other way around. That will be the day...
Wouldn't that be a funny sight......
May Glen "Savior" Sather find his way through this messy dance that is the Free Agent period, as I am sure every Ranger's fan will be hoping for.
For those of you who took the time to get through this, I greatly appreciate you reading it. I hope this may have changed your mind a bit about one of my favorite days of the year. I honestly couldn't see my feelings for the day changing (that is my love for it, not the practices that take place) unless we enter a lockout.
LET'S GO RANGERS!