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Sunday, August 21, 2005

This is, for all intents and purposes, TJ Hensick's senior year. He will not be back in 2006 unless he sustains a severe injury. And while I could have said this about any Michigan scoring machine at any time in the past, oh, six or seven years and been mind-meltingly correct, the new CBA virtually guarantees that no player with a potential NHL future ever sees a senior year of college hockey. The Boston Globe explains:

The collective bargaining agreement mandates that college players, if unsigned by Aug. 15 of their graduation year, are rendered unrestricted free agents. With that kind of leverage looming out there, NHL clubs, rather than getting backed into a negotiating corner with 22- and 23-year-olds, will be far more motivated to turn kids pro a year or two ahead of that strike date.
Pro teams will do everything they can to avoid losing their draft picks to free agency. They will try to sign players immediately. Players have powerful incentives to sign, too: the NHL-mandated rookie cap expires three years after a player signs, and the free agency clock starts ticking soon after that player arrives in the NHL. Previously it was largely based on age. That's how Jeff Tambellini went from 100% staying to 100% gone over the course of two weeks--there really were powerful economic forces pushing him out the door.

I expect a lot more Andy Hilberts in the future. Remember when Boston had Hilbert "pencilled in" their opening day lineup four years ago? Well, pencils have orange rubbery things on them:
Four years into his tenure with the Bruins (most of it in Providence), Andy Hilbert has asked for a trade. ''He's asked to be moved," confirmed Boston GM Mike O'Connell, ''and I've told him we'll do our best to accommodate him." Hilbert had 79 points in 79 games with the Baby B's last season, and has played only 43 games with the varsity since leaving Michigan early for his shot at the show.
Would Hilbert's career have been any less spectacular had he stayed another season or two at Michigan? Probably not. It would be hard to do less in the NHL than Andy Hilbert. But he wanted to go and Boston wanted him to come, and there you have it. Four years in Providence, Rhode Island, getting paid a fraction of his contract (they're two-way, dontcha know) to play in the AHL. That's where I suggest getting season tickets if you want to see Michigan seniors in action: the AHL.

Bonus depression note! Junior forward Mike Brown is probably gone. Mysterious USCHO poster "woogie," who correctly forecast the unexpected departure of Dwight Helminen, has resurfaced and claimed that Vancouver has signed Brown. Given the track record of both Woogie and rumors of Michigan hockey departures in general, I figure that there's a 99% chance Brown is the new Hilbert.

Impact? Let's just say I won't be mailing Jeff Tambellini's dad more than one or two dead cats. Brown was a penalty magnet last year in the new no-obstruction (and sometimes no-check) NCAA, and the same people who always say dumb things about muckers like Brown and how the NCAA game is "not suited" to their skills are saying them again. Given that Michigan has an abundance of similar forwards coming in, his loss isn't extensively painful. The third line probably got marginally worse.

The Brown signing does presage really nasty things in the future. Brown is a mid-level prospect coming off a terrible year. The reaction? Sign that kid up! Great. Can we get those Jenks and Czarnik kids on campus, like, now?