While it seems less likely by the day that NHL owners and the players' association will come to any sort of agreement to prevent a lockout, a recent pre-lockout waiver period was established that could give young talent and veteran journeymen a chance to play for their respective farm teams.
We may not get the real thing this year, but this agreement is good for the league and its players and could ensure better quality in the coming years.
Basically, this agreement allows players signed to two-way contracts the chance to play for their farm teams, as long as they do so by Sept. 15. With a season-long lockout looming on the horizon, giving them that ability is one of the smartest decisions made this offseason.
When news of a lockout hits, the worst nightmare for most teams is picturing their young, recently drafted talent sitting at home, not getting a chance to experience the sport on any professional level. When you invest money and time into certain players, you want them competing against good talent, even if that is in the minor leagues.
The 2004-05 NHL lockout did a serious number on the marketability and popularity of the sport. At the time, the sport wasn't flourishing like it had in years past, and the break in play exacerbated the problem.
Losing an entire season of games hurts the sport in terms of its popularity, yes, but it can also diminish the level of talent the league has to offer.
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Players will continue to work out during this stoppage in play, and many will find competitive games to play in. But without the grind and stress of the season, players simply are not in the shape they usually find themselves in.
For the most part, star players will be their usual dominant selves when play resumes. They are too good and have built conditioning programs to withstand the rigors of the league.
But young players and journeymen who use preseason workouts to impress teams no longer have that opportunity. Thus, having the opportunity to sign with a farm team and guarantee themselves playing time, they will be better suited when the lockout ends.
Players and fans all around the world are preparing for the worst, but with this pre-lockout waiver period, we can relax knowing the best young talent will be competing, working to get better.