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The Daily Chum: NHL players don’t owe you anything

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Jimmy Vesey is just the latest example.

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In all sports, much contract talk (particularly in a salary cap league like the NHL) can get pretty dehumanizing. When I say the Sharks shouldn’t offer Mike Brown a $5 million a year contract, I only mean to say it wouldn’t be good business sense for the team. It’s nothing personal against Brown, but from his perspective...well, I imagine it’s tough to see it that way.

We can chalk that up to the necessary evil of over-dissecting every single thing that happens in the NHL. It comes with the territory, and displaying some self awareness about it at least shows us you’re human. Then there’s free agency, an undoubtedly good thing for the players that owners, general managers and crotchety old people don’t like very much.

Two of those three groups makes sense. Free agency makes the jobs of owners and general managers much more difficult, even if they know somewhere (very) deep inside that it’s the right thing to do. For the old folks who can’t wrap their head around someone other than themselves having agency in their job, well...it’s peculiar.

If you pay attention on Twitter, by now you know I’m casually referring to a very bad series of tweets and articles by the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington. I’m not going to link to his article here, but here’s the basic thesis of his latest column:

Yes, Vesey was using his CBA rights to free agency by going through his four years of school. Fair enough. In this view, he should have signed with the Predators, the team that drafted him and spent a lot of time and money developing him. The Preds were giving him a top-three line spot last spring and into the Stanley Cup playoffs and he turned them down. They will be one of the top choices in the Western Conference this season. Turning down Nashville and signing with New York shows this wasn’t about winning at all.

Who does this kid think he is? He’s not Eric Lindros, who was a No. 1 overall pick. And save for Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau, the list of Hobey Baker winners the last 15 years is littered with mostly nobodies.

I retained that first paragraph just to give Harrington credit for acknowledging Vesey used his CBA given rights. The second paragraph tells the story. Who does this kid think he is?

Sorry, CBA rights aren’t reserved for Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. They apply to all players who, you know, are covered by the damn bargaining agreement. He chose the New York Rangers. I do not know why Vesey chose to play for the Rangers other than the puffball quote he gave after signing, but get this: who cares?

There are so many things in the game of hockey we can try to puzzle out based on the information at hand. Why did the Ducks trade Frederik Andersen? Why did the Sharks draft Timo Meier? What type of offense should the Washington Capitals employ next season? All of these things are not just fair game, they’re actually topics that matter to the game of hockey and can be reasonably answered by the media.

Psychoanalyzing a 20-something year old does not fit the bill. Much of the ire surrounding this “circus” as Harrington calls it is the notion Vesey hasn’t earned the right to all of our attention. Well, then stop writing about him. If you’ve made a determination that this topic is unimportant to your readers, than ignore it! Just like any reasonable media member does!

No, Vesey deserved the coverage he got and he and his agent played this all very well. It turned into a sweepstakes for a guy that no, is not going to turn into an Eric Lindros type player. So what? Teams are looking for an edge and Vesey is a guy they can have for effectively nothing! Of course teams are going to take a good look at that.

It’s important to remember that these players are, you know, people. Yes, these players have a great opportunity and often much more money than the rest of us, but that doesn’t excuse the subhuman treatment they often get. If you find yourself getting worked up about the next Vesey, ask yourself this: why? And then, who cares? Then go grab a beer and do something else. You’ll thank me for it later.