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Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Execs call for revival of team compensation

By Pierre LeBrun

It has been six years since the NHL abolished the practice of compensation for teams allowing personnel to accept promotions on other teams.

For years, this was the standard practice. For example, when Dean Lombardi left the Philadelphia Flyers as a scout in April 2006 to accept the GM job in Los Angeles, the Flyers received a second-round pick from the Kings.

A month later, Peter Chiarelli left the Ottawa Senators' organization for the Boston Bruins' GM job. The ensuing feud between the teams over compensation led to commissioner Gary Bettman saying enough is enough. He stopped the practice of team compensation over lost front-office personnel.

As of 2006-07, teams could either release a coach or scout or management-type for a job in another organization or choose not to. But there would be no compensation.

Now there’s a growing feeling among some GMs that it’s time to bring back some form of compensation because it’s not fair to lose an organizational asset and get nothing in return.

"If you have a good organization and run a good organization, you attract good people that want to work for your organization," Penguins GM Ray Shero told ESPN.com this week. "You shouldn’t be penalized for that when they leave."

Shero has brought it up with the league’s head office. He’s firmly supported on this notion by the likes of veteran GMs Brian Burke and David Poile.

"Yes, I’ve been pushing this since the league eliminated it," Burke told ESPN.com this week. "It’s got pretty good support at the GM level."

Burke, having worked in the league office in years past, fully understands the reasoning Bettman had for ending it.

"Gary said, 'Either you let people go for no compensation or you decide not to let them go,'" Burke said. "Which has wonderful simplicity to it. But it also in my mind is not the best way. If you have an eye for talent and you hire good assistant coaches or assistant GMs, and other teams want to give them a chance, you should get something for that."

Burke points to the Detroit Red Wings. Steve Yzerman, after retirement, learned the management ropes under GM Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill before moving on to Tampa Bay before last season as GM.

"For Kenny Holland to get nothing for Steve Yzerman after having him there four years, it’s not right," said Burke. "Why shouldn’t they get a draft pick for him?"

Burke has asked the league to address the topic as an agenda item next week when the GMs meet in Boca Raton, Fla., but wasn’t sure whether the league would indeed have it on there.

Clearly, at this point the league has no appetite for bringing back team compensation.

"This has been discussed with both the general managers and with the board of governors, and there is no consensus sentiment to change the current policy at this time,’’ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com via email.

But it’s a question of fairness, said Poile, a thoughtful and well-respected executive in the NHL community.

"It’s a tough topic," Poile told ESPN.com. "It’s one of those things that’s not equal and I don’t think you’re going to get everyone on the same page. If you look around the league the last several years, and the development of scouts, managers and coaches and where they come from, there’s no way you can say it’s spread equally around, that all organizations are developing people. Because that’s not true. Some organizations aren’t developing any people. Some organizations are not letting any of their people go, even upon request. On the flip side of that, there are organizations who are developing people, promoting them and letting them go [to other teams]. Thus, it’s not equal. And when something is not equal, that’s not fair. And that’s the dilemma that we have.’’

Both Shero and Burke pointed to Nashville as a great, recent example of the current inequity of the system.

The Predators hired Kirk Muller to coach their AHL team in Milwaukee last offseason. Two months into this season, the Predators didn’t stand in his way when Muller accepted Carolina’s head coaching job. Not only did the Predators get nothing in return, they were left scrambling to fill his position in Milwaukee.

"And that’s the rub," said Poile. "If Kirk had been in certain other organizations, there’s not a chance he’d be coaching in Carolina today."

That's because other organizations don’t allow personnel to leave in those instances, Poile said.

Shero’s argument is that if there was compensation, say a draft pick, more teams might be willing to release personnel.

"It might probably lead to even more movement," said Shero, who lost both Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo to the Minnesota Wild organization in recent years. "Because it’s hard to fill positions, good people are often under contract. The hardest one is during the season. What do you do if someone comes to you and wants to hire one of your people during the season? You might say no, and then you kind feel bad, you wonder what’s morally right."

Timing is a huge factor, said Poile.

"I can’t imagine the pressure a GM would be under if during the middle of the season another team asked permission to take one of his assistant coaches to be a head coach," said Poile. "Sure, you’re cheering for the guy to get ahead, but how do you replace him at that point?"

Somehow though, as difficult as it is to find the right parameters, there has to be a solution.

"I’m not sure what the answer is but I would probably favor some form of compensation," said Poile. "I know it’s something we’re discussing again at the managers’ level with the league. There’s got to be a compromise there that at the same time is not too punitive."

Not all GMs agree, however.

"No, I’m fine with the way it is now," veteran GM Bryan Murray of the Ottawa Senators told ESPN.com. "I think you just hope that all the teams don’t stand in the way of their people trying to advance themselves. We should all be encouraging the development of young people in our organizations and allowing them to leave if they find better opportunities or better positions. But I don’t think bringing back compensation for teams would help that."