- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- There could be one short-term winner in the case of an NHL lockout: The American Hockey League.
The NHL's minor league won't be affected by a potential work stoppage and should be stacked with young prospects waiting for the labor strife to end. The Chicago Blackhawks would undoubtedly send several of their players, even those who saw NHL action last season, to Rockford where the Hawks minor league affiliate plays.
"I assume Brandon (Saad) would report to Rockford," said Saad's agent Louis Gross. Saad is eligible to play in Juniors again if the Hawks desired. But expect Saad along with Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Bollig -- to name a few -- to report to Rockford if there is a lockout, which would begin on September 16.
An interesting question regarding ‘lockout play' concerns the veterans. Let's say the Hawks want to get some playing time for Corey Crawford or, say, Patrick Sharp offers to play in the AHL to stay close to his young family rather than go overseas. Normally, those veterans would have to pass through waivers before being sent down. And they would undoubtedly be claimed if put out there, but if there is a lockout there won't be any waiver process. It's a murky area but the league still has say over its teams and won't allow for it. They don't want Sharp, or anyone else that doesn't qualify, making money while the league is having a labor issue.
So if you can make your way to a Rockford IceHogs game, starting on October 20, and the NHL is still at a standstill, you'll at least see some Hawks from a year ago. And a few top prospects like Saad. Other than that, it's a wait-and-see approach.
When commissioner Gary Bettman stops trying to hit a grand slam like he did during the last labor impasse then the real negotiating can begin. Either that or the players will have to give in again. Don't count on either happening in the very near future.
The AHL sounds pretty good right about now.