30 Thoughts: NHL players in Sochi Olympics won't come cheap | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: NHL players in Sochi Olympics won't come cheap

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 | 10:12 AM

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Insurance coverage alone for Team Canada players at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is expected to cost in the millions of dollars. (Saaed Khan/Getty Images) Insurance coverage alone for Team Canada players at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is expected to cost in the millions of dollars. (Saaed Khan/Getty Images)

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The NHL and NHL Players' Association plan to meet Friday with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation to discuss how to cover the costs of competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

As we head into hump day and move towards the end of the week, some high-level and important Olympic discussions will take place.

Over the next couple of days, the companies vying for the travel and insurance business will submit quotes to the NHL and NHL Players' Association. Then, as Hockey Night in Canada's Glenn Healy reported on Hotstove Tonight, the league and players meet Friday with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation, with those estimates given to the latter two organizations.

At that moment, we will have a true understanding of where we really are. The players want to go, the league wants to go (although individual owners aren't so thrilled) and the two international federations want it to happen.

Many of the rights and access-related issues appear to be settled. There are concerns about infrastructure, but that's not going to scuttle everything. Money, however, can.

It is the NHL and NHLPA's plan to send all players to Sochi via a series of charter planes. There will be a few "hubs" -- think Toronto, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. -- with next season's schedule tailored to make certain any selected player can easily get to those cities.

From there, it won't matter what country you play for, you'll all hop on the flights together to get overseas. When the Winter Games were held in Turin, for example, Team Canada had its own charter.

Initially, word was the cost for this idea would be around $2 million. Now, according to one source, "Numbers will be more than first projected."

Insurance is an even bigger issue. A friend of mine, who works in the industry and has done some business in sports, said Saturday that the explosion of long-term NHL contracts in the past few years will make this, by far, the most expensive tournament to protect.

"Uncharted territory," he called it.

After a little research, he said you can estimate it would cost between 0.3 to 0.5 per cent of the value of a player's contract to insure it. So let's do the math for a potential Team Canada.

Two months ago, CBC Sports senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby had six people, including him and I, pick their teams. We'll use that as a template. You can go through that list and see how much salary remains on each contract at the midpoint of next season:

Goalies: Carey Price, Cam Ward and Roberto Luongo come in around $83 million.

Defencemen: Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal and Kris Letang are at about $194 million (Alex Pietrangelo is not included. He has not signed a contract for next season).

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash, Eric Staal, Jordan Eberle, John Tavares, Mike Richards, Jamie Benn and Ryan Getzlaf are about $425 million.

For that whole team, you're looking at $700 million. So if you use the conservative estimate of 0.3 per cent to protect these contracts, the figure is $2.1 million to insure Team Canada alone. It sounds ridiculous and it is possible that figure is too high. It's never that simple when it comes to insurance since there are so many variables. Because many contracts need coverage, there could be some kind of group discount.

Also, it will depend on how much of each deal everyone wants to protect. Will it be everything? Just a certain term? Some who went overseas during the NHL lockout chose that method. Others who may not yet have signed extensions -- Bergeron, Giroux and Letang could do it this summer, Toews after next season -- may want to insure future earnings.

This doesn't include summer camps. The various federations tend to say the cost shouldn't be prohibitive because they are relaxed environments, but the insurance companies don't buy it. There will be players who consider themselves longshots, going all out to impress the Steve Yzermans.

It's not just Team Canada. Ryan Suter. Zach Parise. Alexander Ovechkin. Evgeni Malkin has a massive deal coming. This is going to be a huge bill.

Will there be agreement on who is going to pay it?

30 THOUGHTS

1. I couldn't help thinking of Calgary when Jean-Sebastien Giguere ripped the Colorado Avalanche's give-a-care meter. The Flames were criticized for talking about playoffs next season because fans believed it showed a lack of commitment toward a true rebuild. Giguere was angry because no matter what a team's record, the players and the organization should never allow losing to become acceptable. When you're developing, say, a Sven Baertschi or a Nathan MacKinnon, that's the tone that must be set. Maybe "playoffs" wasn't the right word, but it's the right mentality.

2. I do believe there was a serious Festivus-style "airing of grievances" in southern Alberta, not as public as Giguere's, but a similar level of bluntness. Much higher compete level on the weekend.

3. I talked to general manager David Poile about Nashville's need to build offence. The Predators have the lowest "one-goal game" winning percentage in the NHL and are the victim of eight shutouts, also 30th. I asked Poile if he'd consider trading Shea Weber once the post-offer sheet moratorium ends in July: "We have a franchise goaltender and the best defenceman in the NHL ... We are building our team around them."

4. There's hope for several of Nashville's young forwards like Pontus Aberg, Zach Budish, Brendan Leipsic -- and Filip Forsberg will be an important piece. Poile didn't get Martin Erat's list of teams he'd go to until the night before the April 3 trade deadline. "I called everyone on the list, but thought it would be a summer deal," Poile said. "I asked for a lot and got it." Hearing that timeline, Washington was a surprise destination.

5. Capitals GM George McPhee moves methodically. Very rarely does he act impulsively and this was fast for him. He didn't come right out and say it, but this move is Mike Ribeiro protection. "I wasn't sure we were going to do it, but once we put some analysis into the market, we were unanimous in doing the deal," he said. "At some point, Brooks Laich or Marcus Johansson may move to centre and, if we do that, we'll need a left winger. We have [Erat] signed. We don't want to get into free-agent game. Of all the left wingers who might be available this summer, he's the best of the bunch and the contract makes sense."

6. The other thing that stands out here is Alexander Ovechkin's move to right wing, which grows more successful by the game. If this experiment fails, does Washington do this trade? They have Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer, with Tom Wilson coming. The ultimate wildcard, Evgeny Kuznetsov, says he's on his way after Sochi. It makes more sense when you look at it that way.

7. One player a few teams were disappointed they couldn't get: Boyd Gordon. Phoenix Coyotes want to keep him.

8. I don't believe Phoenix got any offers that really made the Coyotes consider trading Keith Yandle. They want two forwards, including a centre who can go face-to-face with the Kopitars, Sedins, Thorntons and Getzlafs of the Pacific Division. They also understand that Yandle is a great skater and passer who can play a long time because he never gets hit. You don't give that away without a reason.

9. For all of the craziness in Vancouver, here are two numbers to know about the Canucks. They have allowed 62 even-strength goals. That's seventh best in the NHL. Of the last five Stanley Cup winners, only the Chicago Blackhawks were not in the Top 10 (Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings were second). Also, Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider is fourth among starters in even-strength save percentage. That's where L.A.'s Jonathan Quick was last year. Tim Thomas ranked first for Boston in 2011. The Chris Higgins injury really hurts, but I'm curious to see how good this Canucks team is with Henrik Sedin, Kesler and Roy down the middle.

10. The Roberto Luongo situation is the Coronation Street of NHL soap operas. The more you hear about trade deadline day, the more you realize the poker game that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Canucks played with each other. Toronto thought it was getting Miikka Kiprusoff from Calgary. When he changed his mind, Vancouver decided to test the waters, but the Leafs waited until an hour before the deadline to engage. So imagine what each side is thinking here. Canucks GM Mike Gillis is saying, "They are reaching out so late. They want a goalie and are desperate." Leafs GM Dave Nonis, realizing Gillis dropped his asking price, is saying, "These guys are desperate to make the move. Let's see if I can squeeze them to take salary." Add in the distrust between Gillis and Nonis and you see why it didn't get done.

11. Could Toronto and Vancouver still do a deal if they wanted? Several years ago, one GM was so angry at a compatriot that he promised never to do business with him again. Next season, the two sides made a trade. When I asked what happened, the answer: "Our assistants did it." There you go.

12. NHL contracts cannot be renegotiated once signed, but there is a potential loophole. In 1998, months after Glenn and Suzie Healy welcomed their first child, Meagan, Toronto demoted Glenn to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL because Curtis Joseph and Felix Potvin were with the big club. Healy's initial reaction was to go all Johnny Paycheck on Leafs executive Ken Dryden, but he received a phone call from then-NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow warning him there was precedence for a goalie's contract to be voided for refusing to report. (Glenn wouldn't say, but I believe it was Vincent Riendeau in Boston). This will get sorted out, but if Luongo was serious about walking away from $40 million, well, that's the way to do it.

13. This summer's goalie market is going to be very interesting. There will be Luongo, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Bernier and whichever of Niklas Backstrom, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard and Ray Emery remain unsigned. Nashville prospect Magnus Hellberg is also getting attention. When I asked Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman about acquiring Ben Bishop instead of waiting to see what potential options were open, he replied: "You said the key words -- 'potential options.'"

14. That's what Yzerman and Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray had in common with this deal -- they wanted to be out front. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported that Yzerman asked the Kings about Bernier, but here's betting the price was super steep. Ottawa initially beat Tampa to Bishop when St. Louis Blues traded him in 2012. Ottawa needed immediate offensive help and it's believed the only other NHL-ready player offered was Ryan Jones of the Edmonton Oilers. Cory Conacher is a better scorer.

15. There was some surprise Murray would trade Bishop to one of next season's divisional opponents. It sounds like he did it for three reasons: first, Tampa made the best offer. Second, Murray knew Bishop and Yzerman had a bit of a relationship. When he traded Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, it was to places he knew they'd be happy. If you treat the organization right, Murray believes the organization should treat you right. Finally, when you believe you have two better goalies, you should be fine in the long-term, even though Bishop beat Ottawa Tuesday night.

16. Quote of the Week I: At the end of our conversation last week, I asked Yzerman if there was anything missed in our conversation. He replied: "You didn't ask me what I ate for breakfast."

17. When I asked the same question to Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, he said: "Credit to Scott Howson for giving us pieces we could trade for Marian Gaborik." Remember when Pat Burns and Barry Melrose feuded during the 1993 playoffs? Burns didn't like it, saying that coaching was a small fraternity and they had to look out for each other. I thought of those comments when Kekalainen graciously said that.

18. The McConnell family does not get enough credit for its efforts in Columbus. Last year, the Blue Jackets had a $61-million payroll. It was an ugly season, but that didn't prevent the organization from taking a shot at Gaborik. Not every owner would be so willing.

19. The New York Rangers rushed someone to Gaborik's apartment so he could sign the waiver allowing a trade to Columbus. It had to be physically done before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

20. Quote of the Week II: I asked New Jersey Devils executive Lou Lamoriello if he was close to signing any of his potential free agents. He laughed. Lamoriello: "You know better than to ask me that." Me: "Well, if you were close, you might say yes." Lamoriello: "Have you ever won a hockey game by being close?"

21. When it comes to working on potential free agents, there are some real differing opinions out there. McPhee, Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota) and Doug Armstrong (St. Louis) don't want that distraction now. Poile began talks with Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi. Kekalainen is working on several players -- Artem Anisimov, Cam Atkinson, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Calvert. 

22. Other teams thought Philadelphia wrapped up a deal with Ryane Clowe a day before he went to the Rangers. Wonder if it fell apart because the Flyers didn't want to deal a 2014 first-rounder. They are hosting that draft.

23. If anyone doubted Steven Mason's sincerity in trying to restart his NHL career, taking a 50 per cent pay cut to facilitate a trade should end that. I think a few teams were given permission to talk before Philly closed the deal. I thought Calgary was one of those teams, but Flames GM Jay Feaster denied it.

24. I'm curious to see if Mason becomes kind of a Ray Emery II, ie. a goalie who gets serious about using his talents to the fullest of his abilities. He didn't have the greatest work ethic, but, by all accounts, that has changed. On Hockey Night in Canada Radio on Siriux XM, Mason confirmed there was a misunderstanding about the size of gear he used to wear. It was not as big as it could have been and he was getting hurt by some of the shots he was taking. Philly will give him the opportunity to revitalize his career.

25. Fletcher pursued Jason Pominville for a couple weeks before closing the deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Of everything the Wild GM gave up, it sounds like the toughest call was Johan Larsson. If Pominville isn't under contract for another year, Larsson probably isn't included. Here's a great story of a surprise visit by Pominville's wife and children. We forget how tough these trades are on families.

26. Fletcher laughed off the conspiracy theory that Pominville's arrival will lead to Thomas Vanek's. Vanek played at the University of Minnesota and his wife is from there. I'm not sure the Wild could even do that under the salary cap, but after what happened with Parise and Suter, would anyone be surprised?

27. Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin wouldn't comment on this story, but another source told me it was true, so I'm going with it. In 2006, when Chris Pronger asked to be traded from Edmonton, Chicago had a shot at getting him. Bergevin worked for the Blackhawks, who decided not to make the trade because they weren't ready to win. The deal included the draft pick that landed either Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane (the source wasn't sure which). Can you imagine? Bergevin remembers that outcome and it shapes his philosophy. Don't swing for the fences unless your team has certain staying power.

28. Bergevin had a great line about being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000. "There was Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Robert Lang, Josef Beranek and Ivan Hlinka behind the bench. They're all taking Czech to each other. I'm thinking, 'Did I get traded to Pittsburgh or to Prague?'"

29. A few tweeters asked about post-game comments I made regarding PK Subban and the Norris Trophy for top defenceman. Here is the issue. Through Tuesday, Subban is playing 17:18 minutes per night at even strength. That's 89th in the NHL. Among recent Norris winners, Duncan Keith was second, Erik Karlsson fifth and Zdeno Chara sixth. Since 2005, Nicklas Lidstrom finished 16th, 17th, 20th, and, in his final victory at age 41, 105th, which, incidentally, was Subban's ranking last Saturday. If Subban continues to move up the chart, it will increase his candidacy. He's improving and is going to be a great player, but recent history (the great Lidstrom's last season aside) says you've got to play the toughest minutes to win.

30. The NCAA Frozen Four starts Thursday. There will be a lot of interest in the prospects that Calgary acquired for Jarome Iginla. If you're scoping out free agents, though, keep an eye on G Eric Hartzell (Quinnipiac), F Antoine Laganiere (Yale) and F Drew LeBlanc (St. Cloud State). Hartzell and LeBlanc are nominated for the Hobey Baker Award as player of the year.

Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC

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