Screen Shots: Random thoughts

This week's Screen Shots is comprised of random thoughts and plots from around the hockey world.

Not a Secret Agent Fan

Stan Kasten, former vice president of MLB's Atlanta Braves, the NBA's Hawks, and the NHL's Thrashers has a suggestion for the NHLPA. But Kasten, who hasn't hesitated to criticize the players' union in the past, isn't looking to limit the beleaguered organization's influence. In fact, he believes in extending it -- at a price.

"The NHLPA got themselves into this mess," Kasten told Screen Shots, referring to the continuing controversy concerning the union's hiring of Ted Saskin. "Unions love the double-dipping of having one collective negotiation, and then allowing each player to also have his own separate negotiation. That's how it has always worked. But it's now backfiring on the NHLPA, because the agents are trying to become a power bloc unto themselves. They've become 'the fifth column,' and as a result, they are turning on the union."

Believe it or not, Kasten's solution may sound like the harps of heaven to Saskin and Co, but it is unlikely to win him friends.

"There's never been a better time for the NHLPA to eliminate player agents than now," he said. "Really, why do we need them? What do they contribute? We know what players contribute, we know what owners contribute, we even know what popcorn sellers contribute. What do agents contribute? All they do is take their 3-5 per cent and drive up prices."

In Kasten's view, an agent-free NHL would see salaries negotiated through the union.

"Let the union represent the players the way it's done in every other industry," Kasten said, "and protect the vast majority of players from the superstar agents and players getting more than their share of the pie.

"The union would represent each player with unquestioned competence and could also take into account the best interests of the industry, on behalf of all of the players," Kasten said. "Right now, each agent just cares about his individual negotiation -- and his commission."

Please direct all furious player-agent rebuttals to aproteau@thehockeynews.com.

Go Wild

After Dan Cloutier's season-ending injury, the Canucks are in the market for a front-line backstopper. While popular opinion might be looking toward the goalie-riddled Buffalo Sabres for a solution, Vancouver fans ought to be hoping GM Dave Nonis takes notice of a floundering Minnesota Wild team.

Nonis will be able to get a quality goaltender at a much lower price from Doug Risebrough than he will from Sabres GM Darcy Regier, who will rightfully ask for a front-line player or prospect regardless of whether he dangles Ryan Miller or Martin Biron.

Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson, meanwhile, have only combined to allow the second-fewest total goals in the Western Conference. Both are solid veterans who will make approximately the same amount (a little more than $1.6 million) this year. When you factor in their pro-rated salaries, it's an even better bargain, one that would leave Nonis with more financial flexibility (taking into account the cap room he saves on Cloutier's long-term injury) and one fewer gap to fill as the trade deadline approaches.

And That's the News From Saskatoon
Regina Leader-Post sports reporter Ian Hamilton got us into the holiday spirit with a story about the Saskatchewan Junior League.

Writing in the paper's Dec. 16 edition, Hamilton tells the tale of the Humboldt Broncos, who were fined $300 after their backup public address announcer got more than a little creative in announcing penalties at the end of a recent game.

"In announcing fighting penalties to Humboldt's Trevor Selin and Melville's David Lehman after the final buzzer," Hamilton writes, "[Announcer Neil] Hruska said Lehman had received 'five minutes for being a punching bag.'"

"I regretted it as soon as it popped out of my mouth," said Hruska, who resigned his position shortly thereafter. "I knew it wouldn't go over well. It just popped into my mind and out of my mouth."

Interestingly, this isn't the first time this has happened in Humboldt, home of NHLers Kyle McLaren and Brendan Witt. In fact, it's getting to be an annual occurrence.

"It was another [Broncos P.A. announcer]," said the team's GM-coach Dean Brockman, who was also in attendance for the 2004 incident. "He said, 'Tonight's first star: The ref in tonight's game.'"

E-mail Adam Proteau at aproteau@thehockeynews.com.

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