Which players are hurt most by NHL lockout?

Which players are hurt most by NHL lockout?
September 26, 2012, 9:16 pm
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When Capitals center Brooks Laich caught a flight to Switzerland for a chance to play for the Floten Flyers of the Swiss League, his departure raised a thorny question.

With more and more elite NHL players signing contracts in Europe the count rose to 79 on Wednesday - what will become of the third- and fourth-line NHL players who cant find jobs during the NHL lockout?

The Capitals have a handful of players who fall into that category.

Forward Matt Hendricks, 31, literally fought his way into the NHL and is in the final year of a contract that pays him 800,000.

Forward Joey Crabb, 29, has spent much of his career working under one-year, two-way contracts and he just recently signed his first one-way deal worth 950,000.

Defenseman Jack Hillen, 26, is in a similar situation, agreeing to his first one-way contract, a 650,000 deal with the Caps, only to be shut out of a chance to earn money in the AHL.

And then theres forward Wojtek Wolski, 26, who was hoping this would be his rebound season in the NHL after signing a one-year 600,000 contract with the Caps.

All four players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season and missing an entire season could seriously threaten their chances of getting NHL jobs next year.

So how do those third- and fourth-line players feel when they see teammates like Alex Ovechkin, Michal Neuvirth and Laich signing contracts overseas?

Thats who were trying to help with the lockout, said veteran winger Jason Chimera, who has two years and 3.5 million remaining on his deal with the Caps. If the salary cap goes down, a lot of third- and fourth-line guys might be casualties.

But if the NHL lockout goes an entire season, those same players might find themselves beaten out of jobs by players who were able to play in the AHL or Europe this season.

The longer were locked out the more of a chance that guys will go play in Europe, Hendricks said. For us to sit out and not play an entire season is crazy. We cant afford to do that.

Jay Beagle echoed those sentiments. He recently signed a three-year, one-way contract with the Capitals that pays him 700,000 this season and 1 million in each of the following two seasons.

Obviously, if it goes a long time Ill have to think about doing something else, Beagle said. When that time comes Ill start thinking about that.

Representatives from the NHL and the players union are expected to meet on Friday, but the core economic issues that separate the two sides are not being discussed.

Hopefully, labor talks start getting better, Beagle said. Thats what all of us are looking for. But if things stay the way they are right now, I dont know how long you can last with six or seven guys coming out and one goalie.