Easy Come, Easy Go
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The National Hockey League spent a year without playing. It helped bring college hockey into a bigger spotlight in some places. Even when a settlement was finally made this summer, college hockey again got some notoriety, because the NHL adopted some of its rules, most notably the elimination of the two-line pass. And with the rookie maximum contract lowered, the enticement for players to leave college would also have seem diminished. Another win.
But one change had a sudden drastic negative effect on college hockey, not directly on the ice, but in its makeup. The full effects remain to be seen.
The change was a modification to the player rights rule as it pertains to college players. Instead of retaining the rights to college players up to one year following them leaving school or graduating, NHL teams now only have until Aug. 15 of that year — about three months — to negotiate a deal with their drafted players or lose their rights to them.
The effect is that NHL will more likely jump at the chance to bring players out of school early, rather than be held to a three-month negotiating window that could hold them under the gun.
Boston Bruins general manager sheepishly called Boston College coach Jerry York and Boston University coach Jack Parker to explain the situation. It's something most people are calling an unfortunate by-product of the new NHL labor deal.
Whether NHL teams will feel that urgency every year remains to be seen, but it seems to have had an impact on the rash of late summer signings this year.
Some huge names decided to skip their senior season. Among the more notable were Jeff Tambellini (Michigan), Jimmy Howard (Maine), Al Montoya (Michigan), Patrick Eaves (Boston College), Brett Skinner (Denver), Matt Greene (North Dakota), Ben Walter (Mass.-Lowell) and Mark Stuart (Colorado College). There's a lot of Hobey Finalist spots in there.
Before getting too alarmist, however, there is another possible explanation for the rash of late signings: Teams were simply catching up from a year's worth of relative paralysis on the signing front.
There were some other notable departures. After a strong freshman season that marked a return of promise to BU, Chris Bourque left around Frozen Four time and eventually signed with the Washington Capitals. Providence lost another NHL player's son, Vince Goulet, when he skipped out after just one year. Miami also lost junior-to-be goaltender Brandon Crawford-West when he decided to leave school.
Brady Murray will be a big loss for North Dakota. He left to sign a contract in Europe after suffering through an injury-plagued season with scattered moments of brilliance.