Campbell's Cuts: Deal with the deal

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Some early-week random thoughts:

You have to love Vancouver Canucks GM David Nonis for speaking his mind about NHL free agency and the unbalanced schedule, unless of course you're the NHL or the owner of the Canucks, who was made to look like an idiot for signing off on the deal.

First the GMs were whining about arbitration, now they're carping about more liberalized free agency and some are even bleating about the inequities of the shootout. Hey, where were those voices a year ago when everyone thought the owners had taken the players to the cleaners on the collective bargaining agreement?

The fact is, and it will continue to be proven as we make our way in the new world order, the CBA was done for the benefit of the owners, not the general managers. And the sooner the likes of Nonis and the other 29 NHL GMs realize this and deal with it, they better off they'll be.

STAAL HERE TO STAY: There seems to have been some confusion over the Jordan Staal situation with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

When the 18-year-old plays his 10th game of the season Wednesday night, it will burn up one season of his entry level contract, which means Staal will now finish up his current deal after the 2008-09 season and become a restricted free agent.

However, for purposes of his unrestricted free agent status down the road, the Penguins actually have until the 40-game mark to decide whether to send Staal back to junior hockey. If he stays on the roster beyond the 40-game mark, he will qualify for unrestricted free agency at the age of 25, or after the 2012-13 season.

It's an important distinction because should the Penguins decide before mid-season that Staal can't withstand the NHL grind, they could still return him to junior hockey and that would buy them another season before he becomes a UFA.

There's little chance that will happen, but it is still an option for the Penguins.

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY: It says here that the NHL is whistling in the dark when it comes to its attendance problems. The league tends to downplay it as an early-season slump, but football isn't going anywhere until January and the NBA started Tuesday night.

Through the first 166 games of the season, the NHL had registered a shocking six announced – note the word “announced” - crowds of fewer than 10,000 fans. Three were in St. Louis, two on Long Island and one in Chicago. Compare that to last season when the NHL had only two crowds under 10,000 for the entire season.

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One of THN's senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken's expertise delivered to you every issue.