Allan Muir: Challenges for Red Wings and NHLPA boss, more news - Sports Illustrated

News and views: Red Wings and union boss challenged, more

Publish date:

NEWS: The IIHF has denied Jiri Hudler's transfer card at the request of USA Hockey and the NHL.

VIEW: There's a big picture issue being addressed here, but I'm guessing that Red Wings GM Ken Holland wishes that these groups weren't working so diligently to make their point with his property.

Could the Wings use Hudler's talent if the absence of a transfer card forces his return to Detroit this season? Sure. His speed -- and his 30-goal potential -- would quickly smooth over any issues in the room created by the free agent's summer defection to Dynamo Moscow.

What the Wings don't need is his salary. If Hudler is forced to rocket back from Russia, his $2.875 million cap hit becomes a mastodonic thorn in Holland's side. The Wings already have 23 players signed (including potential Hudler replacements Jason Williams and Todd Bertuzzi) and are already nearly a million bucks above the ceiling.

Fitting Hudler in would require a solution more elegant than burying a couple of veterans in the minors and promoting a couple of minimum wage kids to fill their spots. Holland would have to foist a significant salary on another team and take nothing but picks/prospects in return, and we've all seen how tough those deals have been to make this summer.

Holland's only real option here is to dump Tomas Holmstrom. His $2.25 million hit won't cover Hudler's, but it's close. His contract expires after this season (good for the acquiring side) and he still has a rep as a big-game player, though he's not always as visible from October through April.

You'd expect Holland to try first to move him to the East, where the Hurricanes and Rangers might be interested. Both sides, however, would need to do some wiggling of their own to fit him in. It's more likely that Holland's limited options will force him to move Holmstrom within the conference. Would the Blues or Kings be willing to take him on? Possible, but far from certain.

Holland is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, GMs in the game. Thanks to this latest round of international intrigue, it looks like he's about to get another chance to prove it.

NEWS: Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and his cousin pleaded guilty to a non-criminal charge of disorderly conduct and have been ordered to send a written apology to the Buffalo cab driver they were accused of roughing up and pay $125 in court costs.

VIEW: If Kane learned anything from this, the bet here is that he handed the court a pair of Benjamins and told the bailiff to keep the change.

Look, this ended up as quickly and quietly as many expected, and the non-criminal resolution puts this case in the same arena as a speeding ticket. That suggests a fairly minor least in the view of the courts. But while his lawyer proved capable of diminishing Kane's legal culpability, he did nothing to clear up the black eye Kane gave himself, his team and the league.

The guilty plea might have been a convenience for the young winger, but it should also speak loudly to a commissioner who this month has stressed his commitment to morals and integrity.

The absence of a trial means we'll never know for certain what happened in that cab, but the plea tells us this was more than an innocent misunderstanding. Kane screwed up and even if the courts wouldn't slap his wrist, the league should. A suspension -- even a single game -- would serve to reinforce the concept that playing in the NHL is a privilege that comes with a higher standard of expected behavior, no matter how young or talented an individual might be.

NEWS:Paul Kelly's job as director of the NHLPA may be on the line this weekend when the union's executive board meets in Chicago.

VIEW: Given the group's history of lighting torches and hoisting pitchforks over any perceived slight, the real surprise may be that the first real threat to Kelly's leadership has taken this long to surface.

This time around, it appears some concerns were quietly whispered in the ear of interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove late last season. Hargrove, who knows a bit about inciting activism in unions from his rambunctious days as president of the Canadian Auto Workers, has done his research and is expected to deliver a less than flattering report on Kelly's tenure at the meeting. Though no one is speaking as to the exact contents of the report, it's expected to address, among other issues, Kelly's handling of the inflator and escrow provisions of the CBA. Given that some agents have said off the record that this year's claw-back could be up to 20 percent, that's the topic most likely to have inflamed the membership.

If that's the case, here's hoping that the players recognize that without the use of those tools, a lot fewer would have found employment this summer, and a lot more might have been cast off to the minors to ensure that teams didn't spend beyond the proscribed 56 percent of hockey-related revenues. Kelly didn't author the deal. He's simply managing it with the good of the majority of players in mind...not just the most highly compensated ones that were the focus of the previous PA administration.

But there's also a bigger issue in play: the very nature of the union itself. Under Kelly, who came on board in 2007, the PA has recovered from the acrimony and in-fighting that plagued it during the lockout and in the wake of the imposition of the salary cap. It's unlikely that anyone could get all 700 players to sing in perfect harmony, but under his personable and savvy leadership, they've found their rudder and become a positive, progressive force for the betterment of the game. And when players like Jeff Finger and Ryane Clowe can land a four-year, $14 million deal, it should be clear that, despite the cap and escrow, they're doing far better financially than they might have feared.

By contrast, the thought of Hargrove assuming a more prominent role in PA matters should be abhorrent to the membership, and it is hard to read this as anything but a tentative first step in that direction. This is, after all, a man who last September told the Toronto Star upon his retirement from the CAW post that, "I'll miss challenging myself and others every day." Even at 65, it's hard to imagine this guy would be happy for long manning what amounts to the PA's complaint desk.

Hargrove's piss-and-vinegar mentality may be ideal for the working-class heroes of the factory lines, but it is anachronistic for the modern athlete. The membership would do well to recognize that.

NEWS: An apparently straight-faced Bill Daly reveals that Jerry Reinsdorf "cannot be ruled out" as a potential buyer if the league purchases and later sells the Phoenix Coyotes.

VIEW: Reinsdorf was so passionate in his aborted pursuit of the Yotes that he failed to put one dollar of his own money into the bid. So you can bet he'll be right at the front of the line if another chance to buy the team pops up next year. Just like you can bet on Jason Allison making a triumphant return to the center of the hockey universe...wait...what?

NEWS: The Toronto Maple Leafs have invited Jason Allison to camp on a non-contract tryout basis.

VIEW: Didn't see this one coming, but from a Leafs' perspective, why not? GM Brian Burke has put considerable effort into beefing up Toronto's back end, but Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson aren't the solution to the team's need for additional pop up front.

At 34, Allison hasn't exactly settled into the Matlock demographic just yet, and last we saw him, he was nearly a point-per-game player for the Leafs in 2005-06. That's a long layoff, especially combined with the fact that he played just 26 games in 2002-03 and missed the entire 2003-04 campaign. But that absence may have finally made his heart grow fonder.

While he often was maligned for skating with a piano on his back, Allison's biggest problem was in his chest, not his feet. Even at the end, he could see the ice better than most and still had decent hands in tight. But the issue was getting him to commit. He was always more interested in the offensive end of the ice, but personal issues seemed to sap even that competitive drive. Those distractions, along with a reluctance to accept a lower salary when he became a free agent in June of '06, led to his prolonged exile.

Now, more mature, more focused and, reportedly, more fit, Allison gets his second chance. He's a long shot to earn a roster spot out of camp, let alone make a significant contribution, so you can make the argument that Burke should have focused on a safer bet to address an apparent need. Still, it's a no-risk move and should make for one of the more interesting stories when camp opens next month.