Sunday, June 13, 2010

Downsizing on the Farm

Five years ago when the "New" NHL was still new, the NHL bosses wiped the sheen of nervous sweat from their foreheads and got back to business as usual. They'd seen the abyss: a world in which the NHL stopped play for a year and many, many fans didn't care. They came back in the summer of 2005 and set out to make a splash to convince the fans their teams would be stronger and better than ever.

The Senators made the huge Hossa-for-Heatley trade. Other teams threw money at the raft of free agents available after the lockout. Big names like Peter Forsberg and Joe Nieuwendyk signed new deals, some for big coin. In New Jersey, Lou Lamoriello brought in three players to help bolster his young core. He signed bruising defenceman Dan McGillis for $4.4-million over two years, and all-star Alexander Mogilny on a two-year, $7-million deal. Then the reality of the salary cap hit home.

Uncle Lou, Hall-of-Famer, one of the most respected GMs in the NHL, decided he'd made a couple of mistakes by signing those guys for millions in the off-season. The New NHL wasn't like the old one, and money not so freely spent. When Patrick Elias came back from a bout with hepatitis after Christmas in the 2005-06 season, the Devils were stuck financially. They had to find a way to fit him under the cap, and something had to give. "Something" turned out to be McGillis and Mogilny. They, and their combined $5.7-million cap hit, were jettisoned to the Albany River Rats within two weeks of each other. Neither ever played an NHL game again.

McGillis was the first to go (Gerry Warner, a smart and thougtful Habs fan on the Canadiens usenet group, coined the term "McGillisized" for NHL players who get dumped to the minors for cap reasons), but his demotion didn't raise too many eyebrows. He was, after all, a low-scoring defenceman who'd already bounced around a few teams. Mogilny, however, was a different story. This was a possible Hall-of-Famer; a guy who put up better than a point a game in nearly a thousand NHL starts. His unceremonious booting to the AHL was heralded as a harbinger of things to come. The new reality would be "perform or get out." Only thing is, it hasn't really worked out that way.

Just about every team, including our Habs, has gone crazy with free agent contracts at some point since McGillis and Mogilny were McGillisized five years ago. A lot of GMs have regretted a signing too, but most have found a way to dodge the bullet without having to McGillisize a player. Brian Burke signed a 38-year-old Mathieu Schnieder to a $5.5-million a year deal, then dumped him on Atlanta after just one season. Burke did try to waive him first, but didn't actually send him to the minors when he cleared. Daniel Briere went to Philly for eight years, with a cap hit of $6.5-million. Within a year he was the subject of trade rumours, after not living up to huge expecations based on his contract value. The Flyers ducked the lowering cap boom when Briere ended up requiring hernia surgery, effectively removing his salary from the team's payroll for most of the next season. The Rangers stuck themselves with several huge contracts, but managed to unload Scott Gomez' remaining five years at $7.3-million per on Montreal.

The time for those kinds of lucky solutions to ill-advised contracts may be ending, though. The flush years of the cap increasing by several million dollars have ended because of the global recession. While it'll go up again this year, it will be by a much more modest amount than we've seen in other years.

There's an element of distaste involved in McGillisizing a player. The thinking is that if a player signs the contract handed to him by some crazy GM, it's unfair for said GM to dump the player when the team's circumstances change, or if it's later deemed the player doesn't live up to the amount on his paycheck. It's not the player's fault, critics reason. He's hardly going to say, "No thanks, I think I should take a million less so I don't become a liability two years down the road." It's considered "unclassy" to send a veteran player to the minors for cap reasons. The thing is, ask any player and he'll tell you the NHL is a business first. Yet, the older managers seem to be much more sentimental about the realities of business than the players do.

What's interesting is that Burke and Lamoriello, two of the biggest promoters of class in their business dealings, viewed dumping a contract in the minors as a reasonable solution to their cap problems, even if, in Burke's case, he ended up trading the player before burying him in the AHL.

What's more interesting is the Blackhawks' situation this summer. The Cup champs are seriously over the cap, and with player bonuses kicking in, the vise tightens. They have a $5.6-million a year goalie in Cristobal Huet who didn't play a minute in the playoffs. No team can afford to keep a backup goalie at that price. Stan Bowman is seriously cash-strapped and, if it comes down to a choice between unloading one of his young stars or dumping his expensive backup goalie in the minors, what's he going to do? I expect Huet will be starring in Rockford come October.

The thing is, if the champs have to take to McGillisizing players to stay under the cap, it may set an example for other GMs with similar problems. Right now, a general manager will do whatever he can to trade a player, or simply keep some young talent in the minors until a bad contract runs out. But if Bowman expediates his cap solution by dumping a rich contract in the AHL, it may become more socially acceptable for other GMs to do the same thing. There are lots of them who'd like to try.

Glen Sather wouldn't be overly reluctant to ditch a contract like Wade Redden's or Chris Drury's. Lamoriello has proven he'll McGillisize if he has to, and Patrik Elias' six million is getting painful in Jersey. The Canadiens have the unmoveable Hamrlik contract at $5.5-million, as well as the Gomez deal. The Oilers wouldn't be adverse to burying Sheldon Souray or Shawn Horcoff. It's only a matter of time before Steve Yzerman looks at Vincent Lecavalier's giant contract and wants an out.

McGillisizing isn't going to work for every team. Some of them aren't rich enough to pay millions to a minor leaguer. But, if you look at who's cap-stuck right now, it isn't the poor teams, for the most part. Those teams are prudent about spending in the first place, because they can't afford to throw money away. It's the wealthy teams like the Rangers and Canadiens who fling money around when they get the chance. And it's the wealthy teams who subsequently regret their big signings and want a do-over. Those teams' owners can afford to pay a couple of years of major league salary to an AHL player.

I think a lot of NHL general managers are looking at Chicago this summer, because the 'Hawks have the worst cap crunch in the league to deal with right now. If, as expected, Bowman dumps some salary to the AHL, expect others to take that as a green light to do the same without being labelled "unclassy" (a death-knell in the NHL's old boys' club). I hope Pierre Gauthier is paying attention.

There will come a point when the niceties of keeping a guy around because he's "a great team player" or "used to be a star" aren't enough to prevent demotions of established players. The cap is a business reality and GMs will have to become hardened to sending guys to the minors for salary reasons. It's not the players' fault; it's the general managers'. They gave the contracts, and the contracts are bad. They're going to have to admit it and risk getting a reputation for being jerks.

The Canadiens are in cap trouble. They risk losing good young players like one of the goalies or Tomas Plekanec because of the Hamrlik and Gomez contracts. McGillisizing may become a necessity. I just hope, in the business that is hockey, romantic feelings of class don't prevent Gauthier from doing what he must. The GM's job is to ice the best players possible, not the players with the most expensive contracts. If the GM can convince the owners to pay a big-league salary to an AHL-calibre player who no longer cuts it, he's got to do so. The players aren't naive. They know very well the NHL is a business. They have no problem leaving a team for another when money calls. The managers have to take the same cold-blooded view of things for the good of their teams.

Sure, it's their own fault they get into these cap-restricting situations. But they have a way out if they choose to use it.

18 comments:

pfhabs said...

JT:

-always thought that the easiest way to get rid of the Gomez contract was to send him to hamilton and not recall him....if you recall him another team below the CH in the standings can claim him on waivers on the way back at half the contract w the CH having the other half against their cap without any player earning it. so it's to hamilton for 4 years unless a trade to another club is arranged

-given that Gauthier was the Chief of Pro scouting at the time this trade for Gomez was made I assume that the evaluation was that Gomez was value for maoney...well 59 points for $7.3 million may be value in fantasy leagues but Gauthier made a huge gaff and Gainey went along with it

-what I'm saying is that I doubt Gauthier has the stones to admit his mistake and send Gomez down especially when you consider they also send a their top D prospect McDonagh to NY along with Higgins and Valentenko.

-do you think Gauthier will risk this ridicule and explanation to Geoff Molson...we are stuck unless Molson orders it---another unlikely event

-not only can the CH not build properly they may also have to trade a goalie and let Plekanec walk for nothing unless they trade his rights for a pick before July 1st.

-Gomez as a player is fine at about $4 at $7.3 it's an albatross which will cost players...so that run everyone went gaga over a couple of weeks back...hope you enjoyed it because it's now payment time. the overpayment last July to other players also factor in so as you stated the CH are in deep cap problems

-the Boucher scenario was just the begining of this summer's disappointments. you just outlined another in the making and more are coming

Theo said...

Well, I don't think that a player would take a pay cut on the principle of not being a liability, but what about on the self-interest of playing in the NHL? Like, "OK, let's renegotiate for $2-million less; just keep me the hell out of Rochester." You get rather more glory and the prospect of better contracts down the line through more exposure (admittedly less relevant if you're 30 and have 7 years left), and you avoid the bus ride to Hershey and Scranton.

J.T. said...

@Theo: A good idea, in theory. The only problem is, under the current CBA, there's no renegotiating of contracts. You sign it, you live with it...on both sides. Even if a player wants to change it, he can't. That's another reason why dumping established players in the minors may be some teams' only resort.

@pf: Gauthier may have been the pro scout, but Gainey was the GM. That's an out for Gauthier with the owners. He may be able to say, "Hey, I'm stuck with these guys Gainey signed. Help me get rid of them for the good of the team." Anyway, I was thinking more of Hammer's contract than Gomez' for now. His 5.5 million is the best cap saving available right now. And, if it can't be traded...

James said...

There's a couple problems with stashing Gomez in Hamilton:

- who takes his place? I agree, he's nowhere near full-value on his contract, but he's a real 1b center that has 1a moments during the year, he's durable, and he has great chemistry with our 2 top wingers. Exactly no-one in the organization can even come close to taking his spot, and no one on the UFA market can either (other than Marleau but he'll cost even more than Gomez). Besides, we don't even know for sure Plekanec is staying, so talking about getting rid of our only other half-decent center isn't such a great idea, IMO.

- if he's sent down to Hamilton, you can't trade him without recalling him, and as pfhabs said - if Gomez is put on re-entry waivers, he gets snagged in a second, probably by the first eligible team.

Hamrlik, I think is already a better idea. Personally I think there may be a trade market for him though, but if there isn't, I wouldn't be averse to him starting the year in Hamilton. He could also just be put on re-entry waivers (provided no one wants him in a trade) and he'd go easily, leaving us with a 2,75M cap hit for a year... not ideal but not that bad.

One major problem I see with this strategy though (for every team, not just the Habs), is that no matter how much sense it makes, it's still a classless move in a sport that prides itself on being classier than the other north american pro sports. Players, as UFAs, are interested in signing contracts with classy, winning, organizations and teams that display a positive attitude. Remember both Gionta and Cammy said, after they signed last summer, that a (big) part of their decision had been the fact that the Habs had just acquired Gomez (maybe another reason not to jettison him like that) and that this demonstrated the organization wanted to win.
If this idea of stashing bad contracts in the minors ever becomes common practice, that point won't matter - but for now, it'd be considered classless and that would certainly impact the org's desirability in regards to UFAs. Even the team's own players would think twice before signing a contract extension - what if I don't perform to my contract for a year? I'll be stuck riding the buses down in Hamilton? No way, I'll just check out the market and go somewhere that they don't do that... could easily be the thinking.

I agree to an extent with your point JT - that the Habs have cap issues and would probably be well-served in thinking outside the box to solve them, but I'm not sure dumping salary in the minors is a great idea overall. And I'm quite certain it isn't the solution for Gomez.
Just my 2 cents...

subdoxastic said...

This post is 335 words.

We might hope that "rich," new or progressive GMs will maximize their potential on the Production Possibility Frontier by burying bloated contracts in the minors, but does anyone seriously think that the NHL is savvy enough to market this at an attempt at vertical integration? Growing the fanbase at the minor level through the creation of teams of marquee players (if in price tag and not in production)in the starting line-up in Hamilton, Rochester or wherever is an interesting idea, but I don't think that's what the GMs have in mind. Instead they want to bury their mistakes.

The Board of Governors is through its actions at least publicly committed to a co-operative, revenue-sharing agreement, and stated adamantly that costs were to be kept down (sorry, made "certain") through the use of the salary cap. Given this, how do you sell the idea of removing the stigma attached to sinning against the cap without initiating an arms race among the spendthrift teams? It would be undoing all the tidy group planning and revenue stream maximizing agreements achieved in the latest "media free" get together.

For any G.M. planning to go "rogue" with a liberal use of the backhoe in the coming season, their is a real risk of losing your job. Sure the fans are happy to have separated the wheat from the chaff (at least cap wise-- I think the story is a little more complex than that), but someone at head office is looking at payroll and wondering why the hell the guy currently sitting in the corner office is paying x-millions of dollars for someone not to play. There's a story about Gainey and Laraque in here somewhere.

But machinations and hawks and doves theory is a little sterile if it's based on nothing more than salary. Sure everybody laments Hamrlik's contract, but we're not just swapping bills, but skills. Is it just a lower price tag,or is the new player lighter in the skills category too?

J.T. said...

@James: My point is that a lot of GMs will be watching the 'Hawks this summer to see how they solve their cap problem. If they bury Huet, as many think they will, it's going to go some way in lifting the "classless" label from such an action; giving other team's a tacit "permission" to do the same.

Still, it's funny how Lamoriello did it five years ago and nobody has a problem with New Jersey. I think being part of a winning team trumps worries about riding buses for a lot of players. In any case, if it's a big worry, a player is free to negotiate a no-movement clause to prevent that happening. Georges Laraque was smart enough to do that, which is why Gauthier's hands are tied in his case.

Anyway, I didn't really have Gomez in mind for this treatment right now...although that's not to say if his play drops in the next couple of years, and Leblanc is ready for the NHL, that opinion won't change...it has to be considered a viable option for cap relief. GMs make mistakes, and the CBA leaves very few ways to fix them. Hamrlik is a good example of a guy whose contract has run a year too long and is a little too steep for what he brings. If he can't be traded, things will be really tight under the Habs cap and somebody else will have to go. The problem with being "classy" is that nice guys finish last. If the Habs keep Hamrlik because he can't be traded, and they're forced to let Plekanec or a goalie go for nothing in order to be "classy" and accomodate Hamrlik's contract, that's just bad asset management. Next year, you have no Hamrlik AND you've lost younger, better players because you wouldn't deep-six him and his contract to Hamilton for a year.

Sport is a cruel business, and with free agency at young ages a reality, we see the players are just as mercenary as the owners. If a guy like Komisarek walks for better money, I have no problem with Burke paying him the money with the Marlies in two years when he's no longer worth what he's making. It's not like he's getting stiffed on his paycheck.

pfhabs said...

JT:

-the whole idea of the cap was to bring a fixed cost structure to each organization in terms of max and min to be spent on salaries. this was to make the business more attractive (known salary costs) to new owners and to some extent protect them from themselves and each other. however; you can't really legislate against stupidity completely so you get the Sathers of the world spending too much of their upper limit on fewer assets (Gomez, Drury, Redden, Rosival all have horrible contracts) resulting in a second line centre who scores about 60 points getting 1st line money for a player who should be scoring 90+ points

-if in fact we had Nik Backstrom and his $7 million contract and his 90+ points I do not think we'd complain...a premier centre and core player gets top dollar. however in the CH scenario not only do you over pay a 60 point scorer you've actually overpaid at least 4-5 other players compounding the issue so the focus is on the biggest contract or in your point a D man that is making $5.5 and almost finished in terms of what he can provide going forward.

-in my mind I can see the Gomez discussion with his agent and the agent saying 'Scott they are overpaying you big time but if they are dumb enough to do that take it and run'. further I doubt Gomez ever thought he was worth a $7.37 million (on average) player but took it anyway. so the player and agent take it and run and down stream it becomes a mistake for the club holding the contract. I therefore can easily see the club saying this contract is untenable and you are going to the minors.

-the unclassiness of going to the minors is as 'punitive' as the original acceptance by player and agent of the bloated contract. the 'fault' if you can call it that lands in both camps. the player has a gourmand type contract and enjoys life until the club says sorry Buba no can do any longer see ya in Peoria or Hamilton...turn around is fair play and in the end may put some pressure on players to be more reasonable in what they sign because there's always a threat of having to move the family from MTL or the Big Apple to Peoria or worse

-if NHL hockey is a business then club development and progression is an integral part of it. the movement of bad contracts for more effective contracts is a good business move so I can see lots of owners saying if the player cannot be traded move the contract but do not lose the younger and longer term production...Huet is a perfect example. dropping a young player(s) to keep Huet in Chicago is a non-starter from both a business and on ice perspective...the CH should follow suit

V said...

I believe sending high-priced talent to the minors as you propose will only work where the player is playing like he belongs in the minors. Unfortunately for Huet, he is close to fitting this bill. So did McGillis and Mogilny. Gomez doesn't come close. The relative value of each to his team was readly on display over the past 2 months.

You rightly say this is a tricky one JT. A team could alienate themselves with free agents if they are deemed to use this strategy inappropriately.

Anonymous said...

Great read JT, thanks. Too bad Laraque had a no movement clause because he is just the type of player this move should be used on, someone hired to do a job and not fulfilling his role. I hope Huet has one so the Hawks can't squirm out for cap space.

pfhabs said...

@V:

-in my view the value of a player extends beyond a 2 month period...for instance only 2 GMs (3 if you count Milbury) would pay $7.37 million for 59 points...you can get the same production for a lot less either in trade or UFA market

-the difficulty with the Gomez contract (not the player) is that it severely affects what you can pay Plekanec and whether or not you can sign and keep both goalies. at this point being able to sign and keep Halak & Price going into the next season is by far a better solution than guessing which to trade now because you cannot afford both because of a crazy contract for a centre

-so for me regardless of Gomez's production in 2 months that does not compare with the potential loss of a good goalie for less than what he might get you at the trade deadline after more seasoning and good performances and a very serviceable centre who plays PP, PK and 5-on-5 and cannot be easily be replaced at this point

-unless you win the Cup the cost of that contract is not worth 2 months of performance especially noting it also cost you 3 other assets including a top 2 pairing D prospect...the story gets compounded if Plekanec is lost due to the Gomez contract and Gauthier tries to replace him...what will that cost in a trade or on the UFA market

-potentially 5 players or more for Gomez and his 59 points...sorry not for me

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is an issue than can be settled under the current CBA. Next go around they might want to allow teams to cut a player loose, a mercy rule. The team could still be on the hook for the contract, but the player could sign as a UFA with any team. That would let the player sign for what he's worth, plus still penalize the team financially but not cap wise.

Still I don't see the problem as being player related. Say Pleks is offered 3.5 by Montreal, his agent says wait for UFA day and someone offers 5. Should Gauthier go 5.5? What happens if Gauthier calls Pleks and says "Give us a shout if you're ever interested in coming back." Now before everyone goes cage trapped simian on me ignore the name Pleks and think Huet. Today most folks acknowledge that Huet will get bumped out by a fellow who played ok. Huet was traded to Washington because he wanted to see the money. He has. I guess his name will be on the cup but I don't think he'll be yelling about that. Remember the furor about trading Huet? Well that furor surrounds all our favorites, but we're a pretty fickle bunch. Hero today, Huet tomorrow.

The players are right, take the money, it is a short career. But burying a good player who can play is sad.

DKerr said...

JT,

Didn't Uncle Lou also jettison Malakhov and a 1st rounder for a lower pick so someone would take his salary?

I agree with a poster that there could be a market for Hamrlik, even if it is not a great return for us in a trade. If he had 2 years left (Spacek), that would be more difficult to move. A team with cap space (and not a great UFA market this year) could take the salary for a year to get to the floor. Hamrlik has his uses, just not $5.5 million worth.

Gomez stays for a couple of year until his actual salary is lower than his cap hit. Then he could be sent (pinch me - at a premium) to some team that needs cap eaters, but doesn't want to spend the actual dollars.

Meanwhile it is paramount that the Habs develop a replacement group of forwards (size would be nice) to take over in the next 4 to 5 years. Leblanc may be a nice start (we can only hope right now), but we need more. Maybe a Rich Peverly waiver pick-up might come our way, but you need cap space to even grab those.

DB said...

Burying a player like Hamrlik in the minors is the last resort for a GM. Before doing that I would expect Gauthier to see if there were any opportunities in Europe for Hamrlik or to see how much of a bad contract Montreal would have to take back to move Hamrlik.

If another team has a player they want to waive with $1.5 M to $2 M left on his contract they could offer him for Hamrlik. In effect Hamrlik would cost them $3.5 M to $4 M next season - a far more reasonable price for him.

Anonymous said...

I and many others saw this albatross coming to roost on July 1, 2009. How the management and ownership....SOMEONE did not put a stop to the insanity is beyond me. If Bob did not see the absolute stupidity of the Gomez deal then why did no one else in the organization see it? The bigger question is why virtually the same people are still in charge.

MC said...

I agree with V. A player who clearly deserves to play in the NHL should not get sent to the minors. If Montreal tried to send someone of Gomez's calibre to the minors, the Players Association would blow a gasket. The league does not need anymore labour issues.

Gomez will have a bounce back year. I see him as a 70-80 point guy as long as he has scorers on his line, as he is a set up guy. He is good on both the PP and PK, so you can't just assess his worth on points.

To blame Montreal's cap issue on Gomez's contract is also overstated. He may be overpaid, but there are 19 other players who make more or within $500K of him, and that number will increase next year. That means most teams have $7M+ dedicated to their top player. The Habs should still be able to compete with the rest of the league even with the Gomez contract. I think Montreal's cap problems have more to do with a lack of strong young players who can play key roles on a team, but at an entry level contract, leaving money available to fill in the holes with free agency. The only player we have like that is Subban, unless Pouliot pulls his head out of his ass next year. That is how Chicago won it this year. San Jose paid Clowe, Setoguchi and Pavelski $6.4M for all three! If your legitimate 2nd line costs so little, you will have a strong team. This can only be achieved through good drafting and keeping your draft picks. Montreal was forced to get all their help on the open market, and now they are out of options - other than McGillisizing.

JF said...

While I would agree with burying an over-sized contract in the minors if the players is near the end of it and is not performing well, I think MC above is right that the Habs' fundamental problem is not bad contracts but poor drafting and development. Every team has a couple of overpaid players, but if the team also has a steady stream of young players doing their jobs at entry-level contracts, the large contracts are more manageable. This is not the case with the Habs. Apart from P.K. Subban and Tom Pyatt (and Ryan White when he was given the opportunity) our prospects more often than not lately do not perform up to expectations and are shipped out. Latendresse is gone, as are Chipchura and D'Agostini; Sergei Kostitsyn will almost certainly be gone next season. Weber and Pacioretty may still develop, Maxwell looks like having no impact. Overall, the stream of incoming talent is thin, which means we overpay role players from other teams and use draft picks to acquire them, often on a short-term basis. We do have a couple of bad contracts, but until we improve in the areas of drafting and development, we'll remain a bubble team.

J.T. said...

@JF: I completely agree, the root of the Habs problems are in the drafting and development of young talent. I believe it's more in the drafting, though, because you can't develop talent that's not there to begin with. Sure, Kyle Chipchura will be a decent third-line centre for the Ducks, but he was drafted in the first round. You don't need to shop for third-liners with your first-round pick. In terms of development, I think Boucher was a good first step, and replacing him should be of prime concern.

Those are the roots of the problem. Unfortunately, we're dealing with the branches and leaves of it. As you point out, when drafting and development are lacking, a team has to buy talent. That's how it ends up with overpriced contracts, which is what's squeezing the team right now. I would really prefer they take a sixth-round pick for Hamrlik or find a way to "loan" him to a team in Europe. But, if there's a choice between keeping him and sacrificing younger, better assets to do so, or dumping him to Hamilton, management has to be bold enough to own up to its contract mistakes and dump him. The fact is, whatever the original reasons for ending up in a salary cap jam, they're in it regardless. They have to deal with the current problem, since the reasons for it are in the past.

MC said...

@JT: First of all, I will assume that you think that Hamrlik is still good enough to play for the Habs. I would put him at least number four in the depth chart on D. This is a guy who can still play 20-30 mins a game against the other team's best lines, he has some offensive upside and he has been durable. I am not even going to argue about how it would be unethical to destroy a guy's career because of management's previous error in judgement, and all the negative consequences that could result. Let's analyse it from a business and hockey perspective.

The only way this benefits the team is if you can spend the money elsewhere to the cap limit. So as the GM, you have to go to the owner and say, "I think you should spend $5.5M on a guy in the minors so that we can pay more for other players because I am blaming previous management for screwing up. I guess we will have to go deep in the playoffs to pay for this move, so I am not sure you would get your money back, as we are still likely to fight for a playoff spot." I think I would fire you on the spot.

Let's look at it from a hockey perspective. You send a top four d-man to the minors because he is overpaid. Later in the season when the D get into injury trouble, you will not be able to recall him because you are up against the cap. So you call up some other kid who gets exposed by NHL forwards and the team suffers while a guy like Hamrlik is sucking deisel fumes on the bus in Hamilton. How do you think that would go over in the Montreal press?

The Habs should look for a better solution for a guy like Hamrlik ( ie trade, waivers, or Europe) or just take the cap hit. McGillisizing a guy like Hamrlik is a bad buiness move, a questionable hockey move, and a horrible way to treat people in your organization.