Sep 102012
 

Sean Imoo is 11 years old and in grade 6.  He enjoys listening to the latest music, playing guitar and piano, playing hockey and other sports, and whipping his Dad in NHL 12.  Sean is passionate about his favourite team – the Vancouver Canucks.  He is likely the biggest Canuck fan in his school and he is always learning more and more about the Canucks every day.  Here are his thoughts as the NHL and NHLPA approach the September 15 deadline.

With less than a week to go before the September 15 deadline, a lockout seems certain.  As a huge sports fan and Canucks fan, I look forward to the NHL season every year.  Therefore, I will really miss the NHL if there is a shortened season.  But I guess there is a bright side to a lockout:  I’ll be able to get my priorities straight and I will likely become a better student.

Instead of watching the Canucks on TV every second night or so, I can study.  I will be able to improve on my least favourite subjects like Science and Social Studies while maintaining my love for recess, lunch and PE.  Also, I won’t go to as many games with my Dad.  While I realize how lucky I am to go to games, my grades will certainly get better.  I’ll be home more and not taking 4 hour chunks to get to and from the arena.  I’ve actually taken my textbooks to a game before and I studied during the intermission.  I went from screaming to studying, booing to writing, and chanting to reading.

A lot of times I talk about the NHL with my friends and my teachers at school.  So without hockey we’ll probably talk more about school and other current news events and less about hockey.

A lockout will also be better for both my physical well-being and my self-esteem. For the next little while, my Dad won’t have to drag me out of bed at 11pm (on a school night no less) to help him film his Clay’s Canucks Commentary.  And I’ll feel better about myself as I won’t hear him yelling at me for cutting his head off or for being too shaky.  What can I say: a lot more goes into the videos than you might think.  Or he could just buy a tripod.

However, if I get too bored of studying, I can always turn my attention to the CFL, NFL, and the NBA.  I look forward to seeing the new-look Lakers with Nash and Howard and making bets with my cousin on whether or not the Lakers will beat the Heat.  I will see my favourite CFL team the BC Lions go for a second consecutive Grey Cup.  Also, I will watch some hard-hitting NFL football.

Honour roll here I come!

Sep 052012
 

As we look ahead to the possibility of an NHL lockout, I chatted with 3 Canucks fans about their feelings, their frustrations, and their outlook.

@Hockeys1stlady

Jolene (@Hockeys1stlady) is a Vancouver-born and Burnaby-raised gal that is head over heels in love with hockey. Jolene believes “the most amazing sport in the world” saved her life when she was going through a rough stretch in her early teens. Jolene currently gets paid to have fun on the radio in Vernon. That high time includes an NHL feature that runs during Vipers’ broadcasts on 1075 Kiss FM. Jolene also writes a blog for Hockeytube.net. When she isn’t being a hockey junkie, Jolene loves to paint, watch ‘Friends’ re-runs and explore the unknown.

Ian (@SirCanuckles) was born in Vancouver, studied at UBC for two degrees and is currently halfway done a professional admission course. He’s lived in Vancouver all the years of his life but one, which he spent toiling on exchange across the pond in the UK. As a Vancouver native, he’s had his heart consistently broken by the Canucks for over 20 years, and has a strong suspicion that his enduring loyalty evidences a dark, masochist side, of his personality.

@iskeets0ysauce

Jordan (@iskeets0ysauce) was born in Winnipeg and moved to BC in August 2008. He studied Aviation Management at The University Of North Dakota and is currently working in Food Services at Rogers Arena, He’s lived all over the place, including Winnipeg, Fargo (ND), Bismarck (ND), Grand Forks (ND), and East Grand Forks (MN). He’s an avid traveller and explorer and has a fond appreciation for new things (especially food)! He’s been a Canucks fan since 1996 and admits to having man-crushes on Teemu Selanne and Roberto Luongo.

1.  What’s one word that you would use to sum up your feelings on this negotiation process or your hopes for an NHL season? Why do you feel this way?

Jolene: Absolutelyfrustratingandutterlydepressing. That’s one word, right? I can’t do another year where the only thing close to watching NHL hockey is a Swedish Elite League game featuring the Linköpings Hockey Club. There are some days the only thing I look forward to is sitting down with some munchies and enjoying a game. I guess you can call it my lifeline.

Ian: As I attempted to answer this question the first time I heard it, I moved through several words and similar words. “Cynical” really felt appropriate for a while, but it feels like it’s missing something important in all of this. Really, my feelings on this are perfectly encapsulated by a sarcastic “Whatever.” Yeah, I’ll miss NHL Hockey. I love the excitement, thrill and ultimate disappointment that comes with being an NHL fan in Vancouver. But I don’t really believe most of what’s being said, I don’t really think that the most vulnerable parties in this dispute are being looked after, and I don’t really think the fans are foremost on anybody’s minds either. Whenever I hear about how “the current system is unsustainable” or how we’re “the best fans in the world”, I think to myself, “Whatever.” I really can’t believe any of that. Nor do I believe things will change all that much. I honestly couldn’t care less how either party, or some in the media try to spin it; this dispute is about two relatively select and closed groups battling over how to split an enormous amount of money, the likes of which you and I will likely never see in our lifetime. Good for them, I guess. Just let me know when it’s done.

Jordan: Teeter-Totter (yes, from the playground). You have both the NHL and the NHLPA sitting on either end, trying to balance things out, but alas they try to slant it their respective ways. It actually saddens me that the negotiation process, while necessary, is taking forever and that it only revolves around the almighty dollar, instead of the pure love of the game (which is what made us all fans).

2.  Whose side are you on (if you were forced to pick one)?

Jolene: The Fans! Gary Bettman has been known to make the American audience his top priority. I’m sure the wheel in his head often squeaks, “How can I put more butts in those seats?” Well Bettman, another lockout isn’t going to help you build your dream world. What will happen is thousands of people that have just started to get into the game, will be nowhere to be found when things start back up. Our society can hold some pretty good grudges. In the end, it’s the fans that will suffer.

Ian: Since this appears to be a Bush-ian “You’re either with us or you’re against us” question, I guess the NHLPA. I come down on the side of the party which was not publically willing to casually deprive me of the entertainment and joy said groups provide me for the sake of a few more dollars, of which they already have plenty of. But honestly, I’m not nearly that concerned about the players. My sentiment is more of a frustration directed towards the owners, than sympathy expressed to the players. An alliance of convenience, I suppose.

Jordan: Definitely with the NHLPA on this one. I get the overall vibe that they just want to play (and we want to watch them). Whereas the NHL is about getting the bigger share of the revenues; as if they didn’t have enough!

3.  What’s your prediction of the date of the next NHL regular season game?

Jolene: I’d love to say on time after reading Ron MacLean’s recent article, but I have a hard time believing all their issues will be resolved in a week. Money runs the world, and this game now. It’s so unfair. The NHL used to be more about passion, and love for the sport and less about “how much coin can I get?” So, the players may return just in time for Christmas, or possibly in 2013. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were forced to wait until 2021.

Ian: Don’t underestimate the power of greed. I think we see hockey by the beginning of December. This way, the owners get to cash in on the marketing and publicity orgasm that is the Winter Classic. Also, while most Canadians and die-hard American fans won’t drop their loyalty, the NHL does risk doing damage to its brand in the US to the casual fan the more it drags this out. Two missed seasons within a decade because of labour problems? As if the escalating severity of injuries wasn’t bad enough, the worse these problems get, the less likely the league converts casual fans who don’t give a rat’s donkey about a labour shortage into interested fans willing to watch lots of games, pay for subscriptions and paraphernalia and go to games.

Jordan: Sadly I have no guess…it’s too hard to tell. If I had to guess however, I would say mid-October so we get as much hockey as possible. I would hope it’s no longer than January.

4.  If there is indeed a lockout, what are you going to do with the time you would have spent been watching hockey?

Jolene: Maybe get a life, yeah? I’ll take up more activities like building bunk beds and creating videos for Prestige Worldwide. I have some super old games on VHS too, so I might watch those a couple of times a week. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Ian: I’ll get by for sure. I’ve been watching the Canucks for decades now. Again, three work stoppages and life didn’t end before. In fact I might even get more work done, as on game days I won’t have to be home before puck drop.

Jordan: Without hockey I might have to work (insert tears here)! When the last lockout happened, I was just a padawan learner. This time, I will likely travel. There are a few places that I’ve been itching to see/explore …especially Anaheim, CA (home to my 2nd favourite team – The Anaheim Ducks)!

Sep 022012
 

Lost in the rhetoric and the finger-pointing in the NHL’s and NHLPA’s battle for their share of $3.3 billion are perhaps the voices that matter the most: ours, the fans.

It’s no secret what the league thinks of our unbridled passion and loyalty for the game.

It’s no secret that Gary Bettman fully expects us to come back again, even after him and the rest of the league decide to shut down the game we love for the third time in 18 years, all three times under his watch.

It’s pretty apparent that they don’t care about appearing greedy, cancelling games for “economic reasons” despite trumpeting 7 years of record revenue growth and signing players to career-long, $100-million contracts just a couple of months ago.

Frankly, it’s insulting.

Now, just because the fans don’t have a direct say in this process, it doesn’t mean we have to stay mute.

After all, at the end of the day, this boils down to billionaires and millionaires fighting over our money. Our money. Our money. What we pay in tickets, concessions, Center Ice subscriptions, jerseys and merchandise.

If you think cancelling games would be wrong, let the league know. If you think owners and players need to learn to share and get along for the greater good of the game, let them know. If you think a third Gary Bettman lockout will turn you off the game for good, then you best damn well raise your voice and let them know you won’t be coming back.

Gary is right about one thing. Hockey fans are the greatest and most passionate fans out there. But there is a difference between being passionate and being played for patsies.

Aug 202012
 

While announcing that the NHL owners had turned down the NHLPA’s CBA proposal, Gary Bettman said the following:

“I think it’s fair to say that we value the proposal and what it means in terms of its economics differently than the players’ association does,” said Bettman. “I think there still are a number of issues where we’re looking at the world differently. I’m not sure that there has yet been a recognition of the economics in our world — and I mean the greater world and the sports industry, taking into account what recently happened with the NFL and the NBA.”

Bettman, of course, is referring to the NFL’s and NBA’s recently-negotiated CBAs, both of which reduced the players’ share of revenues. The NFL reduced the players’ share of all league revenues from 60% to 48%; the NBA reduced the players’ share of basketball-related income (BRI) from 57% to 51.5%. Looking at these and keeping in mind the NHL’s first proposal included an almost 20% reduction in players’ share of HRR from 57% to 46%, it’s easy to understand why he would reference them. The owners want to pay less in players costs and keep more of their revenues. Fair enough.

But the reduction in players’ share of revenues is only one component in the NFL’s and NBA’s CBAs. Conveniently, Bettman seems to ignore that both CBAs also address the economic reality of their respective leagues. That is, in both the NFL and NBA, there is an increasingly-widening gap between large-revenue teams and low-revenue teams, and their respective CBAs address this by transferring money from large-revenue teams to assist low-revenue teams – or revenue sharing.

It’s no secret that one of the biggest, fundamental issues facing the NHL these days is that several NHL markets are having trouble generating enough revenue to keep up with rising player costs. Because the players’ share is linked to league revenues, as long as league revenues are rising, the players’ share (i.e. the salary cap) will rise along with it. Under the current CBA, annual league revenues have risen to $3.3 billion; alongside it, the players’ share – 57% – have also increased to $1.89 billion.

In the NHL however, the rise in league revenues is driven mainly by large-revenue teams like the Leafs, Rangers, Habs, Canucks, Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks and Flyers. These teams can easily afford an increase in player costs. On the other hand, teams on the opposite end of the revenue spectrum – teams like the Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Predators and Panthers – whose revenue growth can’t keep pace with those of the big boys’, quite simply can’t.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The NFL went through the same song and dance during their CBA negotiations last year. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but Blogging the Boys had covered the subject very well here, here and here. Teams like the Cowboys, Redskins and the Patriots generate much higher revenues than teams like the Jaguars and the Vikings. To address this gap, the NFL shares about 75% of its $9.5 billion annual revenue, including all of its broadcast TV and radio revenue, all NFL licensing and merchandising, and a portion of local ticket revenues, equally among its 32 teams. They also have a supplementary revenue sharing (SRS) pool that intends to subsidize the low-revenue teams and further close the gap between haves and have-nots. With revenue sharing, all 32 teams are on relatively-equal footing financially, are able to sign top talent, and can field competitive teams. Regardless of your thoughts on parity, you can’t argue its role in the NFL’s overall success.

Even the NBA has acknowledged the need for its large-revenue teams to share with the low-revenue ones. During their CBA negotiations last year, they agreed to an expanded revenue sharing program. Previously-funded exclusively by luxury tax revenues, the expanded program now includes a contribution from all teams based on their total revenues and it’s expected to triple the amount of money being shared. (Now if they can only rid itself of the soft cap and the numerous cap exceptions they have.)

For their part, the NHL proposed to reduce the players’ share of HRR to 46% – to $1.518 billion – to help their low-revenue teams. But while this may help in the short-term, it doesn’t address the league’s fundamental revenue gap issue. Large-revenue teams will inevitably drive revenue growth, and in a few years, players costs will be back to where it is now. Assuming the annual average revenue growth remains constant at 7.1%, league revenues will reach $4.1 billion around the 2015/2016 season, which means, by then, the players’ share will be back to $1.89 billion. Without more meaningful revenue sharing – by that, I mean more meaningful than the current 4.5% of HRR under the current CBA – the gap between have and have-not teams will likely be wider than they’ve ever been and the same teams in trouble now will be in trouble again later.

In the NHLPA’s proposal, not only did they concede the hard cap and a lower share of HRR, they also proposed to put the potential money saved in players costs towards a more meaningful revenue sharing program. By proposing this, IMHO the NHLPA recognizes the NHL’s economic reality. I’m not sure the NHL does.

Aug 152012
 

After the NHL presented its first CBA proposal back on July 13 – an offer which would have rolled back players salaries to levels of a decade ago and removed much of their bargaining rights – many were wondering how the NHLPA would respond. Yesterday, the NHLPA finally responded and presented its alternate proposal. At first glance, it seems to begin to address the league’s concerns, and as gloomy as negotiations looked about a month ago, today there’s a hint of optimism in the air as Gary Bettman and the owners sounded intrigued in some of the proposal’s components.

The full details of the proposal haven’t been released, but it’s been reported that it includes: keeping the current cap system intact, lowering the players’ share of hockey-related revenue (HRR), and using their relinquished share to help fund a stronger revenue sharing program that benefits the small-revenue teams.

From Aaron Ward:

Based on the reported $3.3 billion in revenues in 2011/2012, and assuming the NHL maintains its 7.1% average revenue growth since the inception of the last CBA, here’s how the numbers project for the next 3 years (note these numbers are just pure guesstimates):

YearProjected RevenuesCurrent %Players salaries under current CBAProposed %Players salaries under NHLPA proposalContribution towards revenue sharing
2012/2013$3,534,300,00057%$2,024,190,0002% raise$1,927,800,000$96,390,000
2013/2014$3,785,235,30057%$2,167,907,4904% raise$2,004,912,000$162,995,490
2014/2015$4,053,987,00657%$2,321,828,9226% raise$2,125,206,720$196,622,202

Assuming the NHL maintains its 10% average revenue growth from the last couple of years:

YearProjected RevenuesCurrent %Players salaries under current CBAProposed %Players salaries under NHLPA proposalContribution towards revenue sharing
2012/2013$3,630,000,00057%$2,079,000,0002% raise$1,927,800,000$151,200,000
2013/2014$3,993,000,00057%$2,286,900,0004% raise$2,004,912,000$281,988,000
2014/2015$4,392,300,00057%$2,515,590,0006% raise$2,125,206,720$390,383,280

If you add up the last column in the first table – the difference between what the league would have paid out in salaries under the current system and what the NHLPA is proposing – that’s more than $450 million in salaries the players are foregoing potentially to help fund the NHL’s revenue sharing program. At 10% average revenue growth, that potential contribution totals more than $800 million.

Think that much revenue sharing would help the Panthers, Predators, Blue Jackets and Coyotes?

Essentially, the players have agreed to fund most of the revenue sharing program for the next 3 years while the NHL gets its financial house (i.e. its small-revenue teams’ financial house) stabilized before passing this responsibility back to the league (i.e. its large-revenue teams). By the option year (2015/2016), assuming revenue growth remains constant, league-wide revenues should be at $4.3 billion and a $250 million revenue sharing pool would account for less than 5% of it.

At least from the parts of it we know, it’s a smart, shrewd proposal. In it, the NHLPA doesn’t necessarily disagree with the NHL’s main contention that the league needs to be lowering its player costs (albeit it only proposes to do this temporarily). It keeps the cap the owners want and also directly addresses the league’s biggest problem, which is to figure out a way to help the have-not teams.

Maybe unexpectedly, the players have stepped up with some reasonable solutions and they certainly seem willing to do their part. The question is, are the owners?

(Update: 08/15/2012, 6:05 AM)

George Malik has a pretty exhaustive rundown of reaction to the NHLPA’s proposal over at Kukla’s Korner.

Jul 172012
 

While Tracy and I lucked out and bought our first place, a one-bedroom condo a few minutes east of Science World, before the Vancouver real estate market started to heat up, we, unfortunately, tried to sell it to move back to our new place in Surrey just as the financial crisis started to hit.

But while we conceded we wouldn’t be able to sell it for as much as we may have initially expected, nonetheless we had a good idea of its market value at the time and certainly expected to receive relatively fair offers.

As soon as we listed it, we received an offer for $60,000 – or 25% – less than our asking price – an offer we easily rejected as soon as it came in. His realtor asked if we had a counter-offer. We were so insulted by the initial offer that we didn’t bother with that particular buyer.

When the NHL and the NHLPA finally commenced their new CBA negotiations, both parties – at least publicly – said the right things about wanting to get a deal done and not missing any games.

But on Friday night, the NHL presented their first offer, which included:

  • Reducing the players’ share of hockey-related revenue (HRR) from 57% to 46%
  • Redefining what is included in HRR
  • Limiting contract lengths to 5 years
  • Eliminating signing bonuses
  • Eliminating salary arbitration
  • Extending length of entry-level contracts from 3 to 5 years
  • Raising eligibility for unrestricted free agency from 7 to 10 years

Considering league revenues increased from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion since the last CBA was negotiated in 2005 – and not to mention the cordial tone in negotiations to date – you have to wonder why the NHL would start with such a low-ball offer. I suppose we’ll find out tomorrow when negotiations resume how insulted the NHLPA was and they respond.

In the meantime, here are some initial thoughts on the NHL’s offer:

  • It’s no secret NHL owners want a bigger share of the revenue pie. Now apparently, they also want to share a smaller pie.
  • If I’m the NHLPA, why wouldn’t I counter by asking for a 68% share of revenues with hopes of meeting in the middle?
  • Even before reducing the $3.3 billion revenue pie, a 20% reduction of the players’ share means reducing it from around $1.8 billion to $1.5 billion, and thus, also decreasing the salary cap from $70.2 million to around $58 million. Looking at CapGeek, almost half of the league – 13 teams – will have to shed players before next season starts. Obviously, if they do redefine – and reduce – HRR, then the players’ share – and the cap – goes further decreases as well.
  • While this would reset salaries, presumably to help teams the smaller revenue teams that can’t afford to spend $70+ million in player salaries, it doesn’t address the structural issue these teams face – that is, this move does not do anything to add to these teams’ revenues. For instance, what happens when league revenues (hopefully) inevitably hit $4 billion and the cap, using the current formula, is again near $70 million. In other words, it’s one thing for the Torontos, Montreals, New Yorks and Vancouvers of the league, who account for a significant portion of the overall league revenues, to make a boatload of money, but unless there’s more meaningful revenue sharing with the Floridas and Nashvilles, the smaller revenue teams will always be hard-pressed to meet the cap floor, never mind the ceiling.
  • For fun, if the NHL and NHLPA were to agree to give players a 51% share of revenues – which seems to be everyone’s guess as the NHL’s end goal – and don’t change what constitutes HRR, the cap would be pretty much the same as what it was in 2011/2012.
  • By limiting contract lengths to 5 years and eliminating signing bonuses, the NHL is obviously trying to put a stop to the cap circumvention deals handed out at first to the likes of Roberto Luongo, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa. A couple of years ago, you could argue these deals favored the big market teams who could afford them. But last summer, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave James Wisniewksi a front-loaded 6-year/$33 million contract, and of course a couple of weeks ago the Minnesota Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year/$98 million contracts that include $50 million in signing bonuses in the first 3 years. If this doesn’t prove the league is its own worst enemy, I don’t know what does.
  • If the objective is to prevent teams from using lifetime deals to play loose with the cap, wouldn’t it make more sense to simply make the cap hit equal the average of the top, say, 5 years of the contract?
May 292012
 

Everything that has a beginning has an end.

It seems fitting the New Jersey Devils are facing the Los Angeles Kings in this year’s Stanley Cup. There are several parallels to the Edmonton Oilers – Carolina Hurricanes final that ended the first post-lockout season (2005-06). Both series feature:

  • a team Wayne Gretzky played for (Kings now; Oilers then)
  • an over-the-hill goaltender taking his team on an improbable run (40-year old Martin Brodeur now; 36-year old Dwayne Roloson* then)
  • a team trying to buck the traditional formula and win the Cup without a legitimate number #1 defenseman (Devils now; Hurricanes then)
  • surprising contributions from 21-year old rookies (Adam Henrique now; Carolina goalie Cam Ward then)
  • one team reaching the final thanks to Collective Bargaining Agreement-related roster moves (thanks to the new salary cap and floor system, the Oilers went out and acquired Chris Pronger; thanks to a loophole in the CBA, the Devils offered and retained Ilya Kovalchuk’s services for the next 983248932498 years)

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two series is what they represent. The Oilers/Hurricanes final was the riveting first chapter on a post-lockout era of exciting hockey and parity, where any team could afford a contender and a winner. It was a Stanley Cup Final representing hope. Meanwhile, with another lockout staring the NHL in the face, this year’s Devils/Kings final serves as a referendum on the game since 2004-05. It’s a Stanley Cup Final representing reality.

The question is, are we in a better place with the game today then we were in 2005/06?

Financially yes – the NHL is more successful now as a business than ever before. It will be even more successful once it eliminates (unlikely), finds deep-pocketed owners for (unlikely), or moves franchises (Phoenix, Florida, potentially New Jersey, Columbus) to locations (Canada) where off-ice success is easier to achieve. (Remember, the most profitable franchises in the league are all located in Canada, and prop up to varying degrees the 23 teams south of the border. If the Canadian dollar ever falls below US$0.80 again, league financial health will become a very different story.)

As for the on-ice product, the answer is no. Advances in goal-scoring and flow to the game have largely been negated by smart coaches. As the salary cap has gone up, we’ve seen the big spending = big winning formula return, which was allegedly the reason for the salary cap to begin with. It’s a faster game than it was, but also more intense – just like the NFL, injuries are now a common determining factor in the success or failure of an NHL team’s season.

Unlike the last lockout, and despite on-ice evidence to the contrary, there isn’t a sense around league circles that the product is in trouble. So while the NHL is about to go through big CBA changes –  whether it’s no salary cap floor, a cap on the length of player contracts or eliminating the loophole that allows teams to bury contracts in the minors – real innovations to improve the game are years away.

This means the style of hockey that’s been showcased around the league in 2012 – fast but structured, nasty, defensively-disciplined, tactical and expected to be played mistake-free by its players – is here for awhile.

And its a style of hockey that seems miles away from the promise of the game showcased in the 2005-06 Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Devils and the Kings play the current style of hockey very, very well. Part 2 of this preview will break down both teams, and offer a Stanley Cup prediction.

Postscript:

* – On behalf of Oiler fans I’m obligated to note that if Dwayne Roloson doesn’t get injured the Oilers probably win the Stanley Cup. A healthy Roloson means a rusty Ty Conklin doesn’t come in cold during the third period and give the puck away behind the net to lose Game 1. It also means a rusty Jussi Markkanen (remember, Edmonton ridiculously rotated backups all playoff, with Conklin and Markkanen splitting practice time) doesn’t let the Oilers get blown out in Game 2. Edmonton won three of the remaining 5 games of the series anyways, so it’s no stretch to think a healthy Roloson gives them a split in the first two games, rather than an 0-2 deficit. Having been reminded of all this, Oiler fans have permission to throw up in their mouths a bit.

Sep 032010
 

I’ll go on record here that I don’t oppose the idea of adding a defined maximum contract length in the next CBA. I think it goes without saying that long-term deals such as the ones given to Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Duncan Keith and others carry a bit of risk, and IMHO, should be looked at during the next round of negotiation sessions. What I don’t agree with though is the idea that the current CBA – the one that has governed every move, every signing and every trade that every NHL GM has made in the last 5 years – can be changed on a whim.

A well placed source reports that the league has informed the Players’ Assn. that the league will grandfather the recently submitted Kovalchuk 15-year, $100M contract, Luongo’s 12-year, $64M deal that is entering its second season and Hossa’s 12-year, $63.3M deal that also is entering its second season into the CBA under the following conditions:

1. That the cap hit on future multi-year contracts will not count any seasons that end with the player over 40 years of age. The cap hit would be calculated on the average of the salary up through age 40 only.
2. That the cap hit on future contracts longer than five years will be calculated under a formula granting additional weight to the five years with the highest salary.

I understand the NHL’s desire to close the obvious loophole in the CBA. While you can argue as to whether or not some teams are guilty of willfully circumventing the cap, there’s no doubt that these long-term contracts do lower the cap hits for these players, and in some cases by a significant amount.

In that respect, the first point may be enough to deter teams from entering into a long-term contract with a player through his 40′s. (Though looking at these stats from quanthockey.com, perhaps they should lower the threshold further from 40 years of age to 39, when less than 1% of players continue to play.) Looking at current contracts, this amendment would only affect a select few: Hossa, Luongo, Zetterberg, Franzen, Chris Pronger and Dwayne Roloson. Interestingly, Roloson’s cap hit would actually be lower ($2.0 million vs. $2.5 million) if it goes through.

On the other hand, the second point changes the game drastically for all teams. In the last 5 years, GMs have signed 56 players to long-term contracts of 6 years of more (all numbers via CapGeek). Of these players, 46 have a cap hit that is different from their actual salaries; and obviously, the cap hit of their top 5 years is higher than the cap hit their teams are currently charged with.

PlayerTotal SalaryContract LengthCurrent Cap HitCap Hit of Top 5 YearsDifference
Savard28.0574.00714295.41.392857143
Vanek5077.1428571437.440.297142857
Bourque2063.3333333333.50.166666667
Kiprusoff3565.8333333336.70.866666667
Staal57.7578.258.850.6
Ward37.866.36.560.26
Keith72135.5384615387.852.311538462
Nash62.487.87.960.16
Eriksson24.664.14.280.18
Zetterberg73126.0833333337.651.566666667
Franzen43.5113.9545454555.21.245454545
Horcoff3365.560.5
Hemsky24.664.14.220.12
Booth25.564.254.40.15
Olesz18.7563.1253.410.285
Weiss18.663.13.360.26
Kopitar47.676.87.120.32
Brown19.0563.1753.320.145
Havlat30655.20.2
M. Koivu47.2576.757.290.54
Gomez51.577.3571428578.30.942857143
Erat31.574.55.150.65
Legwand2764.54.70.2
Elias42766.40.4
Redden3966.56.80.3
Lundqvist41.2566.8757.2250.35
Spezza497781
Michalek2664.3333333334.60.266666667
Briere5286.581.5
M. Richards69125.757.21.45
Hartnell25.264.24.40.2
Timonen3866.33333333370.666666667
Pronger34.4574.9214285716.681.758571429
Meszaros24644.30.3
Fleury35755.60.6
Heatley4567.580.5
Lecavalier85117.727272727102.272727273
St. Louis31.565.255.50.25
Malone31.574.55.30.8
Ohlund25.2573.6071428574.450.842857143
Phaneuf3966.56.70.2
Hamhuis2764.54.550.05
Ovechkin124139.538461538100.461538462
Backstrom67106.77.30.6
Luongo64125.3333333337.37162.038266667
Hossa63.3125.2757.92.625

Now I realize that most of the above players’ contracts aren’t being investigated for cap circumvention. I did want to illustrate however that other teams (aside from the Canucks and the Blackhawks) have given other players (aside from Luongo and Hossa) multi-year deals with lower salaries in some years; and of course, this lower their cap hits. If the second proposed amendment goes through, GMs, all of whom have planned and operated for 5 years under the guidelines of the current CBA, may now be asked to act differently within the same CBA. A couple of years ago, Tampa Bay was able to re-sign UFA franchise center Vincent Lecavalier (well at least he was supposed to be a franchise center) to an 11-year contract with a sharp diveback in salary in the last 3 years that significantly lowers his cap hit. Under the same CBA next year, Washington may not be able to do the same with Alexander Semin, nor Dallas with Brad Richards, nor Boston with Zdeno Chara. Similarly last year, Chicago re-signed RFA and eventual Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Duncan Keith to a 13-year contract with much lower salaries in the later years that softens his cap hit. Under the same CBA next year, Nashville won’t have the same luxury with their own franchise defenseman, RFA-to-be Shea Weber. Same CBA, different pile (or something like that).

The point is, the league and the players both agreed on the cap formula – after a year-long lockout no less – and both parties have agreed to continue with it to date (at least neither side has asked for the CBA to be terminated) – so why change the rules now? Or at least why cram through such big, game-changing rules with as many as 2 years left in the current agreement? If the NHL had a problem with the Hossa and Luongo contracts when they were signed more than a year ago, why did they register them anyway, conditionally or otherwise? They rejected Kovalchuk’s contract this summer – why didn’t they just reject Hossa’s and Luongo’s? Further, why did they let Hossa play one full year with a contract they thought could be illegal and allow him to play for the eventual Stanley Cup champions? If they void these contracts now, is the league prepared to face the resulting PR and legal backlash? And if they change the CBA mid-term, how do they explain to their GMs that their asset management and planning over the last 5 years is as worthless as the CBA it’s based on?

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