Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Can't fault Hainsey for not being dumb

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There's been lots of talk about Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey and whether he's worth his salary cap hit of $4.5 million.

That debate really begins with whether any hockey player is worth that kind of dough.

But the reality is a player is worth what the market will pay him and Hainsey's agent negotiated a deal that both sides signed.

Basically, players are paid according to three things -- what they've accomplished, the needs of a team and the depth of the market at the time. Hainsey had great timing and scored a rich deal. Has he lived up to it? There are endless angles to that debate, too.

Hainsey has been excellent of late and with defencemen Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian on the shelf, has stepped up and handled increased responsibility and minutes. He's done what veterans are supposed to do in hard times and altered his game to fit the club's needs.

"He's been very reliable and a veteran presence for us. He's done a good job for us," said Jets assistant coach Charlie Huddy.

Capgeek says Hainsey is the 24th-highest paid defenceman in the NHL, but to rank him as the 24th best defenceman in the loop would be a stretch. But that's not the way it works. Hainsey is getting paid for what his value was deemed at the time the contract was signed.

KILLING KANE: Jets winger Evander Kane will be a restricted free agent this summer and no doubt is hoping to cash in, but after a sizzling start to the season he has cooled off and is now mired in a potentially expensive slump.

Kane scored 18 goals in the first 36 games and was on pace to break the 40 goal mark -- and the bank.

But he's gone without a point in his last six games and hasn't scored in 10, dragging his projected pace back to 32 goals.

There's a clear distinction between 30-goal men and those potting 40-plus. The dollar difference is in the millions and the five players who broke that mark last season; Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler, could be labelled franchise players and worthy of being their team's highest paid players.

Kane could get hot again, but 40 goals seams like a stretch. Not too long ago he was asked about hitting that mark and replied with a smirk, "Why aren't we talking about 50 or 60?"

Kane was being playful at the time but doesn't have the same sense of humour when it comes to his current slide. Tough to blame him.

0-7 AND 7-0: There's been lots of talk this week about the Jets and their inability to win the second game of back-to-back situations this season. They're 0-7 on those nights.

Certainly they'd like to improve those numbers but the Jets have proven to be opportunistic when catching teams in the same spot. Winnipeg is 7-0 at home against teams that arrive here to play their second game in as many nights.

The Florida Panthers come into Winnipeg today fresh off a skate with the Chicago Blackhawks, which is never a walk in the park.

JUST SAY NO: There's lots to love about Jets defenceman Mark Stuart and he plays the game "honestly," as the players say. Too honest at times.

In Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, Stuart threw a couple of big first period hits and was subsequently challenged to a fight by Sabres thug Cody McCormick.

Stuart was at the end of a shift and McCormick came off the bench and made a B-line for him. Stuart had no choice but to drop his gloves and engage, but saying no to a fight when one is clearly at a disadvantage, as Stuart was, shouldn't be viewed as taking the easy way out.

McCormick didn't mind taking advantage of a gassed Stuart and clearly doesn't live by the ''code'' we hear so much about.

The other frustrating bit about the exchange was there was no instigator call. McCormick didn't even look at the puck and just came charging at Stuart. That warranted a penalty and should have been called. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2012 C2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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