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Bobby Clarke, have you been reading this blog?

Normally I'm not a big fan of Flyers GM Bobby Clarke, but over the last couple days he has breathed life into a long-dead aspect of the NHL player market: restricted free agency (RFA). Back in July I mused as to whether GM's would leverage RFA to competitive purposes, and at long last, Clarke yesterday extended a $1.9 million, 1 year offer sheet to , a young centerman with Vancouver who scored all of 10 goals last season in 82 games. The salary is more than twice what Kesler was rumored to get from Vancouver in a new contract, so clearly Clarke was intent on putting some pressure on the Canucks to either let the Flyers have him, or soak up some valuable cap space by overpaying the youngster. With still available, that reduces Vancouver's ability to sign both Kesler and Carter - and Clarke would be interested in having one, if not both, in orange & black this fall.

This marks the first time an RFA has had an offer made to them since 1999, which means that at the very least GM's have an unwritten rule not to go shopping for another team's young players. Clarke's move yesterday seems to have been greeted by his colleagues as more egregious than asking for a return of the Glowing Puck. From the TSN article linked above:

''I thought the DiPietro deal was the height of stupidity but this Kesler deal tops it,'' said one NHL GM. ''Does Clarkie actually think Vancouver isn't going to match? Every team will match. You have to. You have to protect your assets no matter what. All this is going to do is drive up the cost to do business. This is going to be ridiculously inflationary, even in the cap system we have. It's crazy.''


That quote, in a nutshell, describes exactly why the league ran itself into the financial ground in recent years. Saying things like, "you have to protect your assets no matter what" belies a serious misunderstanding of how markets work, particularly in the modern salary cap era. You don't have to protect your assets - if another team comes along with an outrageous bid, let the guy go and put that money to better use. If the Canucks can't replace Kesler with a player making less than $1.9 million, then that's their own fault as an organization. In a world where NHL rosters have a fixed salary cap, there is still an area for competition at the minor-league level. The ability to develop a depth of young talent available to restock various aspects of the team is essential to the modern NHL team, and it's been overlooked by some of them so far.

Plus, you have to love Clarke's reply to his critics on this. Perhaps he'll forward my blog link to the other GM's around the league, as he also comments, "To be honest, I'm surprised more teams aren't doing it.”
 

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