Canucks GM Nonis: League free agency 'a joke'

Updated: October 31, 2006, 2:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Pittsburgh Penguins stand the possibility of losing two of the NHL's young rising stars when they turn 25 years old, and at least one league GM is not the least bit happy about it.

Under the terms of the current free agency model, Sidney Crosby, 19, and 18-year-old Jordan Staal, the Penguins' No. 2 pick in the June draft, could test the market when they turn 25. Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis blasted the notion Monday, calling the league's system "a joke."

 Sidney Crosby
Crosby

"I think if you assemble a good team, fans want to see that team stick together for more than one or two years. Our current agreement does not lend itself to that," Nonis told the Canadian Press. "If you are a team that is struggling, it's a good thing, being able to get new faces. It helps generate interest in your market.

"If you are a team that is having a hard time holding your team together because of free agency and players are leaving, then it's not necessarily a good thing," Nonis added. "You may lose the continuity a lot of markets enjoy."

Pittsburgh announced Monday that it will keep Staal after debating whether to return him to his junior team in Peterborough, Ontario.

Nonis said increased free agency has helped to reduce the standard rebuilding time from a five-year span to a two or three-year span.

"The Detroit Red Wings could have a five-year run if they did a good job of recruiting, trading, drafting and developing," Nonis said. "You could keep those players together. You are going to see movement among players every single year. To me, that's the worst part of our agreement. Get used to it. It's not going to change."

Nonis also addressed other issues he has with the league, including its unbalanced schedule.

"I hate the schedule," he said. "It does nothing for us. We should play every team in the league at least once. We all pay the same dues, and right now the western teams are getting it right in the teeth for no good reason. We fly as much as we ever did and the eastern teams don't do a bloody thing."

The NHL contends that the scheduling was built to develop divisional rivalries.

Nonis disagreed.

"Rivalries are built through playoffs," he said. "I think a lot of teams want the schedule changed. I know the reasoning behind the schedule, I know why they did it. I don't necessarily agree that it is a good thing."

GMs are set to meet Nov. 7 in Toronto, and the league schedule may be up for discussion.

"I think the league always wants to do what's ultimately best for all the teams. I believe they'll revisit it," Nonis said. "Whether they'll change it, I don't know."

Information from the Canadian Press was used in this report.

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