Why the Devil is New Jersey keeping its 2012 first-rounder?

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The origin of the word “mailbag” is derived from the Latin meaning…ah, to hell with it. It’s summer. Let’s skip the pleasantries, deal with your questions, for which I’m ever thankful, and get out in the sunshine.

Dear Adam, upon hearing the news Lou Lamoriello will not forfeit the Devils’ first round draft pick this year (in lieu of forfeiting it next year), I have to ask one simple question: why? The team has the 29th overall pick, and it's unlikely they will have a pick that late again in the next two years (and even if they end up winning the Stanley Cup, the difference between the 29th and 30th picks is really splitting hairs), so why take the risk? I just can't understand it. Please, for the sake of all that is rational, rack your brain for an answer.

Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.

Dear Brandon,

Racking complete. You’re right, on the surface, the Devils should have agreed to give up this year’s first-rounder (part of their penalty for attempting salary cap circumvention on Ilya Kovalchuk’s initial contract agreement with the team), but there are a couple reasons it makes sense for Lamoriello to hold on to it.

First of all, you’re talking about a franchise that is known to make the most of its draft position regardless of where it is. The Devils value in-house development and thus see even a late first round pick as a very valuable asset. And given the point the Devils are at now, with veterans Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias nearing the end of their career, they’ll need young help sooner rather than later. If they’ve established a new nucleus in the next few years, they’ll be in a better position to give it up.

But here’s another factor to consider: Lamoriello’s craftiness. I don’t think he’d accept having a year without a first-rounder. In fact, in the past 15 drafts, he’s only gone without one twice. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see him acquire another team’s first rounder at the same time he agrees to give up the Devils’ top pick. That’s the type of move that has kept him on the vanguard of the NHL management community for decades.

Hi Adam! I just wanted to know, are places in Ontario such as Thunder Bay, Mississauga or even Toronto places that can own an NHL team? Mississauga is a big city and maybe it can use a sports team to make it bigger.

Kyle Weninger, Calgary

Hi Kyle!

With due respect to the nice folks in Thunder Bay, that’s quite the difference in cities. A franchise in northern Ontario is out of the question for the same reason it is in any other town that doesn’t have an adequate number of corporations to support the team.

Mississauga – a city with a population measured at more than 700,000 in 2001 and is just west of Toronto – does have more structural support in that regard, but there’s no chance you’d see a team named Mississauga. Many unfamiliar Americans would make Mr. Sauga jokes and it doesn’t scream major marketplace. More likely is a team named ‘Ontario’ or, yes, another team named ‘Toronto.’

And I do think there’s a good probability we see another NHL team in the Greater Toronto Area in the next few years. Once it gets past paying off the Maple Leafs for “intruding” on their territory, a second GTA team will have no issues with transportation, arena or lack of potential owners. And the expansion fees it would raise for current NHL team owners is nothing to sneeze at, either. To me, it’s too good for the league to pass up for much longer.

Hey Adam, I have two questions (if you don't mind). First off, after the L.A. Kings won the cup, being the fourth team in a row to do it after starting off in Europe (Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh all having done it previously), do you see a trend starting? Second question, I have been hearing a lot of rumors that Roberto Luongo to the Leafs is a done deal, but that Brian Burke & Co. are waiting until the draft to announce it. Any insider word on that? Hope your off-season is starting well.

Alexander MacLean, Thornhill, Ont.

Hey Alexander,

Firstly, no, I don’t believe a team that started the season in Europe has any demonstrably inherent boost and now will want to take advantage of it. Remember, there were teams before those four franchises that also started the season in Europe. Remember who they were? Me neither, because they didn’t do jack squat. These types of theories drive hockey people nuts and I don’t blame them for feeling as they do.

And, no, I also don’t think a Luongo to Toronto trade has been agreed upon and is being kept as a secret between Burke and Mike Gillis. If Burke really wanted the player, he’d want him as soon as possible to familiarize him with the organization; he wouldn’t allow it to drag on simply for appearance’s sake.

Clearly, nobody is breaking down Vancouver’s door to acquire Luongo’s contract. Burke and other interested GMs may very well be playing an extended game of chicken with Canucks brass. The longer Luongo remains with his current employer, the more pressure shifts on Gillis to get rid of him. That drives Luongo’s trade value in what we in the business call a reverse-upward trajectory. And when it gets low enough, that’s when Burke or one of his colleagues steps in and agrees to take him.

Hey Adam... What’s the deal with restricted free agents now? It doesn't seem any of the GMs put in offer sheets for them anymore. Is there some sort of unwritten agreement amongst GMs that they will work a deal as opposed to giving an RFA an offer sheet and paying the compensation?

Dave Russell, Holmes Beach, Fla.

Hey Dave,

I’m of two minds when it comes to the lack of offer sheets for RFAs. On one hand, the collective unwillingness to attempt to pillage young talent in a perfectly legal way under the collective bargaining agreement does smell a little bit like collusion. On the other hand, there is nothing forcing teams to throw out crazy contracts for players who haven’t achieved much over the long term.

That said, GMs still pay a large price for young players. They just do it for their own young free agents. The most recent example is Colorado’s David Jones, who at age 27 was headed for unrestricted free agency July 1 but took himself off the market after the Avalanche gave him a four-year, $16-million contract. Jones has had just one year with more than 20 goals and 40 points.

With high-risk payouts like that, it’s no wonder they keep their other gambling to a minimum.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.



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