Roundup: Carter on block? Don't bet on it

January, 9, 2010

Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter closed the door on all those Dion Phaneuf trade rumors in my Friday blog, and I've got another GM who's more than happy to squash another ongoing rumor.

"We're not trading Jeff Carter," Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told on Saturday.

The 25-year-old forward is earning $5 million this season and $5.5 million in 2010-11, the last year of his deal. He's basically been a point-a-game player for two years now, and that's good production for his salary.

But when the Flyers struggled in the opening three months of the season, no player had his name dragged through the trade rumor mill more than Carter.

"I don't know where all these rumors are coming from," said Holmgren. "We are not trading him, I can tell you that."

Kovalchuk update
I wrote last weekend that the Thrashers would have to enter into a new phase if there was no contract resolution with Ilya Kovalchuk, and that's exactly what has transpired. While the team remains focused on trying sign the star captain to an extension, it has also started to quietly talk to teams for the first time all season. It only makes sense; the Thrashers have to protect themselves since Kovalchuk is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Ray Whitney
The Carolina Hurricanes are getting lots of calls on Ray Whitney (UFA July 1). He has a no-trade clause, so GM Jim Rutherford will approach him when the time is right and see if Whitney is interested. Carolina loves this player, so there's also the chance that even if the team moves him, it would still approach Whitney July 1 to try to bring him back. Whitney is a crafty, savvy veteran who has a Cup ring. He's the kind of pickup who could really help a contender, much like how Bill Guerin helped Pittsburgh last season.

As I reported earlier Saturday night, Curtis Joseph will announce his retirement Tuesday at a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. In my book, he's a Hall of Famer. Just start with his 454 career wins, fourth all-time in NHL history. His critics will point to the fact that he has no Stanley Cup rings; I will point to playoff performances in St. Louis and Edmonton that were out of this world. I would also point to CuJo being the backbone of a Toronto Maple Leafs team in the late 1990s that contended for championships and went to a pair of conference finals.

Escrow and the CBA
Don't stop reading just because I'm about to talk escrow. This is becoming a big issue among the players, even the average player who used not to care about union issues. This could become the big rallying cry in the next collective bargaining agreement talks.

The escrow fund was established in this CBA five years ago as a check-and-balance measure to ensure players didn't get more than their share of the revenue pie from owners. For the first three years, it was a nonissue because players, for the most part, pretty much got all their money back from their escrow payments -- with interest.

But last season, the final escrow calculation was 12.9 percent, meaning players received only 87 percent of their salaries, a real wake-up call for players, who were not pleased.

Players have paid 18 percent escrow in the first two quarters of this season, with the third-quarter amount to be decided at the end of the month. It's estimated the final escrow payments will range from 12 to 15 percent; again, another big chunk of change for the players.

The biggest frustration for the players is they are tied to the league's business decisions with no downward protection. For example, the players believe the whole Coyotes mess in Phoenix is costing them money and they have no say in it.

In the next CBA (although we don't know who the next NHLPA executive director will be yet), it's strongly believed this will become the union's biggest want -- more protection in escrow, a limit on exposure. The NBA has this, where players in the current CBA have had their escrow payments limited to between 8 and 10 percent.

In the end, the financial pain currently felt by players might just become a positive, a rallying cry in the next CBA talks and the galvanizing factor they've been looking for.

Here's a summary of NHL escrow since the start of this CBA:

• 2008-09 season: The net result is each player earned 87.12 percent of his 2008-09 contract; players' share from hockey-related revenue (HRR; the pie they share with owners) was 56.73 percent. (One of the main reasons for the drop in the players' net results was the recession's effect on league revenues.)

• 2007-08 season: The net result is each player earned 100.66 percent of his 2007-08 contract (including the shortfall and interest); players' share from HRR was 56.7 percent.

• 2006-07 season: The net result was players earning 97.51 percent of their 2006-07 contracts; players' share of HRR was 55.6 percent.

• 2005-06 season: The net result was players earning 104.64 percent of their 2005-06 contracts (including the shortfall and interest); players' share of HRR was 54 percent.

Olympic rosters
Another news item I reported earlier Saturday was the apparent resolution of what was an intriguing Olympic roster controversy.

As you may recall, Russian Olympic coach Slava Bykov raised eyebrows Christmas Day when he said the roster he named that day could be changed at his whim until the start of the Olympic tournament depending on player performance.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association quickly co-wrote a letter to the International Ice Hockey Federation complaining about it, stressing the agreement that all parties had signed ensured that rosters could be changed past Jan. 1 only if there was a "bona-fide injury."

The IIHF essentially agreed and sent a memo to all member countries Friday, including Russia, clarifying the situation.

"For further clarification and as in the past three Olympic Games tournaments, it is only possible to change the players on the provisional rosters in the event of injuries or exceptional and valid reasons," read part of the memo. "An application is to be made to the IIHF informing of the change and the reasons. Should the reasons provided be deemed valid, then the IIHF will accept the change."

So, it would appear Team USA and Team Canada can breathe easy now, and gold-medal contender Russia won't be able to monkey around with its roster. But are we sure? As one international hockey observer pointed out to me Saturday, "valid reasons" in the IIHF memo could still leave room for interpretation.

And finally ...
I leave you puckheads with one of my favorite hockey songs ever, "Brass Bonanza" from the Harford Whalers. Check out this clip from December 1976, when the WHA's New England Whalers prepared to face off with the old Soviet Union in the Super Series.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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