NHL Lockout 2012: How a Lost Season Could Affect the Free Agent Market
As the CBA talks have broken down once more, one cannot help but wonder what another cancelled season can do to the landscape of the NHL.
One area the owners may not be considering losses is with the Free Agent Market. There are still a number of players who are free agents from this season, as well as from the upcoming group for 2013.
The last lockout cost the league the 2004-05 season, and while since then the NHL made positive strides monetarily speaking should they lose this season as well, however, it is doubtful that they will fiscally recover in the same manner.
The fans are upset—both sides seem to be fighting harder for the fan support. Neither side is really gaining ground on that front.
What makes matters more interesting for this lockout has been the number of players signing overseas in the Euro-leagues and the KHL.
In 2004 during the last lockout the KHL had not yet been formed, so some of the players then went to the Euro-leagues with a few going to the KHL’s predecessor, the Russian Superleague.
This time around there has been a large number of players that headed overseas to the NHL’s European competitors. Many of the top names in the NHL are currently exploring their options of playing elsewhere since the NHL locked its doors to the players in September.
Some players may have already decided—even if a settlement occurs, some of the biggest names may not return to the NHL, like Alexander Ovechkin as was reported by Sportsnet in October.
With the KHL growing in prominence over the few years of its actual existence, it is now considered the number two hockey league in the world.
For this lockout the ramifications of a lost season pose a much different scenario. Come the Free Agency season, there is nothing keeping those players who will be unrestricted Free Agents from snubbing the NHL entirely.
There are already a few of the more anticipated upcoming Free Agents playing across the Atlantic, such as Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula who tallied 66 points last season in Detroit.
Some bigger names who have gone overseas to play include Alexander Semin and Jaromir Jagr, whom will also be top names in next years Free Agency class.
Jagr owns a team in the Czech Extraliga, HC Kladno, where he could very well remain if things in North America do not change.
Semin has been called an underachiever in the NHL. This fresh start could be what he needs to rejuvenate his career.
There are also players like Devils’ forward Patrik Elias who has totaled over 45 points per season since the last lockout, including the 78 points last season, who could decide to stay should the season be lost.
One last upcoming Free Agent who has gone overseas during the lockout in Maple Leaf Joffrey Lupul, who is coming away from his personal best season and a crushing team landslide that cost the Leafs a playoff berth.
Should Lupul decide he is done playing for the only team to not make a postseason since the previous lockout, he too could find a home in the KHL.
Two other big names that are will be Free Agents this coming summer are Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
While neither of these players has gone overseas according to TSN, that does not mean that they may find a more enticing stable league come this summer.
On top of Perry and Getzlaf there are other players who have yet to depart, who will be able to sign where they would like this summer. Nathan Horton from Boston or Mason Raymond from Vancouver are two more top tier players that may decide to take a contract overseas this summer.
The landscape of hockey has changed greatly since the last NHL lockout, less than a decade ago—it has the potential for disaster for the NHL owners.
Not only are they losing the money that this season should have generated, as well as the fans' respect and support, but there is now a viable alternative to the NHL.
A lost season could be a boon for the KHL and other Euro-leagues, as players may wish to find a home that will not lockout the players more than once a decade, if at all.
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