The newly amended Collective Bargaining Agreement following the NHL’s 2004-2005 lockout created a number of significant changes to the NHL; some foreseeable and some not.
The biggest impact from the CBA is the hard salary cap and the significance now placed on talented prospects and rookies.
The economic reality of today’s NHL makes young and talented players (that’s the polite way of saying “cheap but effective players”) an extremely valuable commodity. Common place knowledge now, but GM’s like Jim Rutherford and Bryan Murray figured this out years ago.
While the salary cap limits the amount a team can pay players, it certainly has no bearing on the number of scouts, coaches, and development professionals an organization can employ. I’ve never understood why big market teams don’t invest more in their player personal departments and development programs (the Toronto Maple Leafs being one of the few exceptions).
If I were running a hockey team, I’d be putting my players on custom development programs with my best trainers, scouts, coaches etc… the moment after I drafted them. Seriously – right after the photo on the podium, I’d show my newly drafted prospects a treadmill backstage with their name on it. Then I’d have them board a flight to my team’s gym and practice facility for the rest of the summer.
But wait! You can’t do that.