It costs an NHL team a lot of money to develop players. Defencemen, in particular, tend to take a very long time before having a significant impact on a club’s roster. And those who do, oftentimes move on through free agency.
Remember when Mike Komisarek was being groomed for a potential future captaincy and then he left the Habs to join the archrival Toronto Maple Leafs?
It cost a lot of money to develop Komisarek. And just as he was becoming a player of value, poof, he was gone.
Former Montreal Canadien Noah Juulsen, snagged via waivers by the Florida Panthers at the end of training camp, is just another recent example of a team getting virtually nothing for all the developmental costs that they sunk into a promising young player.
It is my understanding of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that Habs received from Florida roughly $56,000 for Juulsen’s three years with the club. This is a drop in the bucket in terms of how much he cost the Habs to develop him.
Will Noah Juulsen turn into the next Ron Hainsey – another former Hab who was nearing ripeness before being taken through waivers? Decades later, the ghost of Stanley Cup champion Hainsey still haunts the Montreal Canadiens.
The decent person in me hopes the best for Juulsen. The irrational hockey fan in me though desires that he becomes another Mike Komisarek.
I understand that the NHL Players Union wants to prevent as many of its members from languishing in the minors as possible. Waivers allow them a chance to continue to earn a good living. But the PA also has to realize that oftentimes, young prospects are better served further plying their trade in the AHL rather than languishing on an NHL roster.
There is a very good chance that Juulsen might find his development permanently stunted as a likely bench warmer on the Panthers. I recently wrote a piece on his crucial loss of developmental playing time due to his freak injuries. Florida’s pickup of Noah Juulsen has not done him any favour. He needs a lot of ice time as his window for development is getting very close to being shut. And with his current spot on the depth chart, he’s not going to get it. Instead, he could basically be facing a ‘redshirt’ season.
Juulsen reminds me a lot of former NHLer Frank Corrado from a few years ago who was too good for the AHL but was just slightly not yet ready for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Corrado, unfortunately, ended up in developmental purgatory and likely lost out on a lucrative NHL career.
Where’s the NHLPA when it comes to representing these types of members? How many players have been denied long term gain over such short-sighted thinking?
There has to be a better option. And here it is. The league can keep its current waivers rule but it needs to add a “waiver developmental fee”.
That is, if a franchise takes a player who is 24 years old or under through waivers, it has to pay half of the amount that his former club incurred in both salaries, development training costs and medical bills. So, if it cost a team $2-3M to develop a player, then his club must pay $1-1.5M to the franchise that he was taken from.
This might give the Juulsen’s and Corrado’s of this world a fighting chance to thrive in the big leagues.
In order to benefit the NHLPA’s best interests, all revenues received by teams via this waiver development fee would have to be earmarked to the player development departments of clubs that lose prospects.
This would have a positive long-term benefit on their members. After all, the better such players get, the more money they will likely earn. Also, the less that they would have to spend on their own private coaches.
This to me is the fairest win-win option. It is one thing for a player to get an NHL salary for a year or so but it is another matter altogether to lose out on more lucrative future earnings.
The current waiver system is unfair to teams, the fans monitoring their prospect’s development, and the young but not yet ripened players themselves.
Noah Juulsen deserves better whether either he or his Players Association realize it. Regardless, I wish him success and hope all the best for him – though this is the better part of my dual nature speaking.