THN.com Blog: Off-ice deals creating on-ice rivalries

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The salary cap has had a variety of effects on the National Hockey League; some of them good, some of them not so good. The one I’m most enjoying lately is the increasingly hostile relationships the cap (and its accompanying notion of parity) has helped create in the league’s GM community.

Without a doubt, Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe have set the standard for sniping and vitriol over the last year. But coming up close behind them, in a short period of time, are Vancouver’s Mike Gillis and St. Louis’ trio of John Davidson, Larry Pleau and Doug Armstrong.

In case you missed it, the Blues tendered a restricted free agent offer sheet to newly acquired Canucks winger Steve Bernier Tuesday night. Clearly, the offer was retribution for Vancouver’s earlier offer sheet to St. Louis center David Backes; and though the Canucks matched the Bernier offer as quickly as the Blues matched the one to Backes, the message of St. Louis’ move was unmistakable:

Stick your nose in our business and don’t be surprised when we jam our schnozz into yours.

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with either team’s offer. The rules are there to be toyed with and danced around, as they are in nearly all walks of life, for the benefit of whomever is brave enough to toy and dance with them.

Of course, these squabbles are worth remembering the next time owners and GMs cry poor and ask the NHL Players’ Association to help save them from themselves.

As this and thousands of other examples demonstrate, there is no saving them.

The only way this soap opera could be more entertaining would be if the Lightning’s braintrust discovered a hidden clause in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement that allowed them to somehow supersede Vancouver's ability to match and bring Bernier to Tampa Bay – a move that, by my calculations, would give the Bolts approximately 89 forwards heading into training camp.

I just pray Gary Bettman doesn’t step in and demand Gillis and the Blues cease and desist from trying to better their organization at the other’s expense.

If, as Colin Campbell noted recently, the NHL sells hate, what’s so wrong about that emotion seeping into management?

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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