In the minds of a lot of hockey fans, it seems that running the National Hockey League should be no different than running one of its franchises. If your team stinks, trade that aging former sniper for a young, low-priced up-and-comer from another team. If attendance is the problem despite tickets that cost less than parking, trade in that “non-traditional hockey market" for a Canadian city, where the dollar is up and the hockey fans are diehard.
If only it were that simple.
The fact is, the salary cap makes it harder to move players in a post-lockout NHL that often requires dollar-for-dollar transactions. These days, the NHL values youth and harder-to-quantify potential just as much as experience and pedigree. Teams must consider not just how much a player earns now and whether that provides value, but how much they will make in future contracts. How will that player fit into long-range plans and salary cap (or budget) as the rest of the team gets older and, presumably, more expensive.
It’s not always as easy as “Joe from Toronto on line 1" makes it sound. Just as the realities of running a $2.9-billion business mean it’s not as simple to pack up and abandon a struggling city in the United States Sun Belt for colder climates, warmer fans and an even hotter currency in Canada.