2. Player Empowerment Has Arrived in the NHL
Calgary Flames fans had a difficult summer watching superstar players exercise their choice to play in different markets. Unrestricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau chose less money to join the Columbus Blue Jackets essentially to be closer to his family in the United States.
Shortly following, restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk advised the Flames that he would not be signing with the club long-term, prompting the team to trade him to the Florida Panthers. Despite receiving what most consider an excellent return, losing a young, unique talent like Tkatchuk stings.
In both cases, the players left the team after their first contract had expired following their entry-level deals. For Calgary fans, and NHL fans in general, this represented a shift. As an NBA fan, however, this kind of player empowerment and movement is common.
In the NBA star players regularly publicly express their desire to play in specific markets, and leverage the media and other players to do so. NBA agents also wield considerable influence and power amongst front offices and the media, and often leverage relationships with star players to influence free agent and trade decisions.
This type of player empowerment has officially arrived in the NHL. While it will be exceptionally difficult for small market and Canadian teams to navigate, I suspect that all NHL teams are going to see an increase in players and agents publicly stating where they would like to play, and influencing NHL teams decisions on extensions and trades.