Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

NHL-CHL agreement has expired; just don’t jump to conclusions

The last NHL lockout did not lead to major junior teams losing players to the American Hockey League. That doesn't mean the same circumstances will prevail in the strong likelihood the big league has another work stoppage but, excuse the fence-sitting, it doesn't mean it will.

It is true that nebulous NHL-CHL agreement which keeps a draft pick from major junior from playing minor pro expired with the last CBA. It's also true that a notably high number of first-round picks from June, 16 of 30, are already under contract, which is a hell of a coincidence. That doesn't necessarily mean that 19-year-old junior stars will be suiting up for the Charlotte Checkers instead of the Kitchener Rangers (to use Ryan Murphy's NHL and junior affiliations as a purely random example).

There has been, along with all the other ramifications of the NHL going dark in October, a lot of discussion about the transfer agreement expiring. Please excuse jumping in on this a couple days late, but Sportsnet's Jeff Marek, who keeps his ear very close to ground with all things junior-related, did

Please don't read this as a defence of the agreement, because it's not. It is an anachronism that predates (a) the growth of major junior hockey into big business and (b) the endless globalization of the sport. On the first count, it is hard to imagine agents being satisfied with the players they represent being bound to a junior team while others who weren't drafted from the CHL can play in the AHL at age 19. On the latter, the inequity becomes more obvious when CHL imports such as Nicklas Jensen and Alexander Khokhlachev are contemplating bagging their final junior seasons to play for greater pay overseas. (Jensen's agent has said the Vancouver Canucks prospect will play in Sweden if he doesn't make the NHL; Khokhlachev has signed in the KHL.)

Getting back to the point, it's too early to tell what will happen with respect to 18- and 19-year-old juniors who are under contract. It's just one of many moving parts. People should also remember that assigning players in their early 20s to the AHL, which happened during the 2004-05 lockout, could be higher priority. That could create more competition for AHL jobs and make it tougher for a teenager to stick for the whole season. It's tough enough already for a young player. In fact, in each of the past two seasons the aforementioned Kitchener Rangers have got a player back from the AHL at midseason. One of them, current Boston prospect Tyler Randell, was even an overage, too.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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