Players looking for jobs

ALLEN PANZERI, Canwest News Service

Charles Darwin … meet Gary Bettman.

With about six weeks left before National Hockey League training camps open, dozens of players are still looking for jobs. Their agents are busy these days, sending out resum├ęs and calling general managers.
Some players will be lucky, but many won’t.

Bill Guerin took a $2.5-million pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh.

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It is part of the price they paid to end the season-long, 2004-05 lockout. Of course, it wasn’t clear initially this would be a by-product of the new collective bargaining agreement.

But the introduction of the salary cap, which was NHL commissioner Bettman’s price for peace, ultimately brought with it a vicious, midsummer scramble for jobs.

Those left without work after teams reached the salary-cap limit would be out of luck, like the loser in a real-life game of musical chairs.

They’d have few options: Maybe drop their asking price and hope for a bite. Or agree to a two-way, minor-league contract and hope for a mid-season promotion. Or maybe look for work in Europe. Or, in the end, just quietly retire.

It’s all become very Darwinian: the aged and weak are culled, while the strong and capable survive.

“The top players are still getting their money,” one prominent agent says. “But that leaves one-third of the pie for two-thirds of the players. That’s where the scramble takes place.”

It’s a delicate dance, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray agrees.

After paying the team’s superstars, the Jason Spezzas and the Daniel Alfredssons, and the supporting cast, the Chris Kellys and the Chris Neils, there’s not much left for the foot soldiers, the ones who make under $1 million U.S. Since young, entry-level players are cheaper than veterans, the veterans invariably get squeezed out.

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