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Saturday, June 25, 2011
Are long-term deals more moveable now?

By Scott Burnside

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The movement of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Brian Campbell over the past few days raises the issue of long-term deals and whether they are suddenly more portable than many imagined when they became the rage in the past couple of seasons.

Carter's 11-year, $58 million contract extension, which he signed in November, kicks in next season. Richards was into a 12-year contract when he was dealt to Los Angeles, while Campbell heads to Florida with five years left on his eight-year deal.

"When I first saw those long-term deals signed, I was wondering, 'OK, how is this all going to play out?' It's a long time," veteran agent Don Baizley told ESPN.com Saturday. "I act for Mikko Koivu, he's on a seven-year contract. It's the longest contract I've ever done and it's a long time, let alone 10 years, 12 years, 13 years. All kinds of ramifications. There are all kinds of issues associated with this stuff and we're all feeling our way."

The annual jump in the salary cap, coupled with the commensurate rise in the salary floor, has put more teams in a position where they have to spend more than they would like, and that sometimes means bringing in salaries other teams cannot or do not want to continue to pay.

Chicago, tight against the salary cap all last season after winning the Stanley Cup, was looking for more flexibility this season. Getting rid of Campbell's deal that comes with an annual cap hit of just more than $7 million was a bonus. It turned out to be a blessing for Florida GM Dale Tallon, though, who needs to rebuild the Panthers into a playoff team.

"I don't know that I would necessarily say the landscape has changed and I can't really speak for other organizations," Vancouver assistant GM Laurence Gillman said Saturday. "From our perspective, we've been extremely fortunate that we've had players that have decided they wanted to play for Vancouver and worked with us. We feel we have a covenant with these players in the sense that, if they're willing to take less money to play in our organization, we agree that we're going to keep them.

"Now, having said that, things change. Sometimes they change from the player's perspective as well as the team's. Coaches change, sometimes philosophies change. It's a very fluid business."

Former NHLer Bill Guerin, now working in the Pittsburgh Penguins' front office, said teams may be attracted to long-term contracts because they know what they're getting, even if a player doesn't expect to be traded after signing such a deal.

"They're not going to have to deal with a UFA [unrestricted free agent]. It's right there in front of them," Guerin said. "L.A. knows Mike Richards has got 10 years left; they want him, they're happy to pay him for 10 years."

Guerin said loyalty, or the lack thereof, cuts both ways.

"I think it goes both ways. I think maybe we just know more now," said Guerin, who played for eight NHL teams. "There's just more movement. There's very few guys that are going to spend their entire career in one city. It's just the way it is."

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford noted the initial cap after the lockout was about $39 million; next year, the salary floor is going to be $9 million more than that.

"The cap kept going up and people have to view their business model different this year than they did last year," Rutherford said. "We actually have teams that don't have money that [still] have to spend. And not only do you have to spend, you're going to either have to go and sign free agents or take on contracts, which are probably then going into the following year [into a new collective bargaining agreement]. Now, all of a sudden, you're putting things together for this year, but you've also got to look ahead to nobody knows what you're working under next year."

The longtime NHL executive said he wasn't surprised the long-term deals got moved over the past few days.

"I'm just surprised that the players got moved because they're very, very good players," he said. "I thought [those were] players that would probably stay with [those teams] for a long time."