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THN.com Blog: Changes the CBA needs, from a GM's perspective

Toronto GM Brian Burke and senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis look on during the NHL draft. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Toronto GM Brian Burke and senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis look on during the NHL draft. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

A quick follow up to my collective bargaining agreement-related column from last week: a couple readers wrote in to wonder why I didn’t mention term limits on player contracts as one of the potential areas of change for the next CBA, scheduled to arrive sometime after the fall of 2012.

I didn’t mention it because I don’t think it’s a matter of if the league moves to term limits, but when they do.

In fact, if the NHLPA comes away with a maximum term limit of more than five years – and they’ll almost certainly come away with term limits of seven or eight years at the most – the players should consider that a significant labor victory in 2012. That’s how strong the impetus is at NHL headquarters and among GMs to restrict all contract terms to half a decade.

Need more proof? Get a load of what Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has to say on the topic.

“We absolutely need to look at term limits,” Burke told THN.com Friday afternoon, before embarking on a week-long west coast vacation with his wife. “I personally do not believe some players have any intention of fulfilling some of these long-term contracts.”

Another rule Burke has lobbied to change for some time is the so-called “four-recall rule,” which limits NHL teams to just four player promotions from their American League affiliate after the trade deadline – as long as that AHL affiliate is still in contention for a playoff spot or playing in the post-season; if their affiliate is out of the playoff mix, there is no limit as to the number of players an NHL team can call up.

The rule was created as a protector for AHL teams and their fans, but Burke has suffered with its NHL-related consequences long enough to want it abolished.

“The four-recall rule is an antiquated and ridiculous provision that has survived only because the NHLPA has taken, in my view, a ridiculous position on it,” Burke said. “Their rationale (for the rule) is they want to trade it for something (in the collective bargaining process), even though they agree it doesn’t work. They want something for it because they have it.”

The negative effect of the four-recall rule is simple, Burke said – especially when two NHL teams with drastically different AHL affiliate situations meet in the playoffs.

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“(The rule) handcuffs teams,” Burke said. “If you’re fortunate enough or skilled enough as a team to have success, it severely limits what you’re able to do with your roster.

“In the three full years I was in Anaheim, we played 14 playoff rounds, including the farm team and the big club. And it was just ridiculous when we were in the conference final against Edmonton (in 2006).

“Their farm team was out, ours was still playing. And we had no flexibility as far as using players, while they had 10 guys from their farm team sitting in the press box. The PA’s refusal to change this rule is asinine.”

Burke doubts no-trade clauses will be outlawed in the next CBA, but uses a recent unrestricted free agent signing of his in Toronto to illustrate how teams can balance a player’s desire for career control with what is best for the organization.

“I believe (Mike) Komisarek, at the start of every year, can give us a list of 10 teams he doesn’t want to go to (in a trade).” Burke said. “I think teams have to be smarter with those things. More than half the time, (the no-trade clause) ends up hurting both the player and the team.”

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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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