(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)
Brandon Dubinsky had a little bit to say on Friday about the free agency process for four-year college players.
Specifically, he is against it.
It’s tough to figure out exactly what his beef is here; he wasn’t more forthcoming than these two tweets. However, there are a few points worth addressing here.
First and foremost: This is a union member saying that the exercising of collectively bargained rights by other union members is “a joke.” Which is troubling in and of itself, but it really highlights a long-standing tendency on the part of NHLPA members to close the door behind them and not express much interest in boosting the rights of players younger than them, such as rookies who are forced to comply to entry-level contract (ELC) rules and have their free-agent rights controlled by the teams that drafted and/or signed them for pretty much the entirety of their prime performing years.
Second, Dubinsky is one of those aforementioned “guys that play[ed] major junior.” Perhaps the beef here is that major junior players who don’t sign after their eligibility runs out are forced to re-enter the draft rather than go through free agency, which doesn’t strike one as being totally fair on its surface. Except to say that most guys who become college free agents after forcing their way to UFA status by refusing to sign with the teams that drafted them (Will Butcher, Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, recent Columbus signee Doyle Somerby, etc.) are something like 22 or 23, versus being forced to re-enter the draft when junior eligibility runs out at age 20.
No one, of course, forces players to choose major junior over college, but you can see where these decisions are made; and when players make them, they presumably do so with a full understanding of what that means for their future career prospects. Especially in the case of a Dubinsky, who was a relatively high pick and fairly regular WHL player at age 16, the prospects of an NHL career had to be very real, and if he wasn’t prepared for what that would have meant for his future free agency status, that’s on his agent.
(Not that it mattered, since he signed with the Rangers after his draft-year-plus-1 season.)
Third, Dubinsky has been a member of the NHLPA for about a decade at this point, and while he wasn’t in the league when players lost an entire season to a lockout driven by owner greed (and, to some extent, union incompetence) he certainly saw what happened in 2012 first-hand; he was the Rangers’ player representative in the NHLPA the year before the most recent lockout. So he should know full well how difficult it is for the players, who basically got their asses kicked in two straight lockouts — and oh yeah, seem destined for a third one — to wring any kind of rights out of the league in the first place.