Kevin Lowe's unhinged spending spree last summer when he offered huge contracts to Group II free agents Thomas Vanek of Buffalo (unsuccessful) and Dustin Penner of Anaheim (successful), is having a massive effect on contracts across the league.
Kevin Allen of USA Today has an interesting story on the subject:
"The number of (young players) signing was mind-boggling," said agent Steve Bartlett. "And it was clearly in anticipation of, or warding off the possibility of, a Thomas Vanek-type offer next summer."
Anaheim general manager Brian Burke says the Edmonton Oilers' decision to give offer sheets to Group II restricted free agents last summer caused "the elimination of the second contract." ...
Younger players are now getting more money earlier, and in a cap system that means there will be less money for the older veterans who are not stars.
"What we are talking about is the elimination of the middle class," said agent Matt Keator. "It's a concern, but if you look at every single cap system, that has happened. But that's the system we have, and that's no choice."
In a strange way, this has turned out to be a benefit for the fans. Teams are no longer taking any chances with predators like Kevin Lowe out there and are signing their players to extensive contracts. In Ottawa's case, core players that the fans love have been locked up for years to come, including Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher and Chris Phillips.
But it also means that there will be fewer trades and less movement overall due to the massive amounts of money involved. Struggling teams will find little recourse during the season to shake things up and the majority of moves will take place in July and at the trade deadline.
Perhaps Brian Burke is on to something when he proposes that teams be allowed to eat up to $500,000 of players contracts that they want to move. It would mean a large amount of "dead money" sitting on team's payrolls but it would allow some trades to happen which has always been a big part of the excitement.