The NHL’s CBA and You: What To Consider Regarding the New NHL CBA

It’s hard to believe that we are already eight years removed from the infamous season long NHL lockout of 2004-05, but alas, the groundbreaking (yet rather one-sided) agreement that was the former CBA is set to expire in September. The issues are largely thought to not be as monumental and controversial as the issues which plagued business viability and even popularity of the NHL almost a decade ago. The results of the past CBA speak for themselves. Popularity and business are up. The game itself opened up thanks to favorable rule changes. The salary cap and floor have attempted to assure that each team has somewhat of a chance to compete.

The NHL and owners have taken the first step in the process, making the first proposals to changes to the CBA.

While the proposal itself is implausible, it does highlight a few problem areas within the game that need to be address.

1. Reduction of Player cut of Revenue from 57% to 46% – this is just a starting point, and I think both sides know this. I guess the League feels like the best approach is to try to sell the agreement like they would a used car? I fully expect the players to scoff at this figure an submit a more reasonable number. I’ll expect the agreement to be around around 50%. With the rise in salaries around the league and the owners providing the actual circumstance for any player to be paid a nice salary, I feel that this may be a concession the players can afford to make.

2. 10 Seasons Played in NHL Before Being Eligible for UFA Status – A three year increase, which apparently removes entirely the age restriction of 27. I don’t know how much the players will budge on this, MAYBE add one year, and maintain some sort of age requirement. For instance, goalies don’t usually make it until around 24 or 25 years old. With the new rules, they would be a restricted free agent until 34, which in most cases is when the decline occurs for an average goaltender. A 10 year minimum would greatly hamper the earning potential of their careers! I expect 8 years and maintaining some sort of age requirement for UFA eligibility.

3. Contract Limit to 5 Years – This would be a welcome provision, but of course, not likely strongly welcomed by the players’ side. There are A LOT of questionable contracts in the NHL right now, and it would only get worse, especially if this offseason sets the precedent. Parise and Suter with 9 year deals. Luongo, an albatross of a contract, making him nearly unable to be dealt. In fact, the only player’s name you have to mention when talking about the absurdity of these long term deals is Rick DiPietro.  The only place you see this kind of job security is in sports and on university campuses with so-called tenured professors.

4. Elimination of Salary Arbitration – I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, if you exceed expectations, especially if you had a lower paying contracted, you should be compensated accordingly. On the other hand, however, you did agree to the terms. Why not have an incentives package? Or why not suck it up and continue to improve as a player for the big payday? I know the players’ side argument (as it is in any sport) will be the uncertainty of injury. That you have to get the money today that you may not get tomorrow. A fair argument. The players will never agree to this, and I’m not sure if there is a middle ground. Perhaps increasing revenue another percentage point or two?

5. Entry level deals are 5 years instead of 3 – This point could also be another nonstarter for the player’s side. Currently, a draftee is signed to a 3 year contract, with the max yearly salary being 975K. After that period, you earn your big money. Adding 2 more years, while ensuring the retention of a fan favorite for those years, could also prove detrimental to drafting players abroad, especially in Russia where the KHL throws big money around. The Lightning’s fan blog, Raw Charge, uses our most recent 1st round draft pick, Andrei Vasilevskiy, as a great example. Assuming he develops in juniors the next two years, why on earth would he play for 1M a year for 5 years?

An additional issue that I haven’t heard too much talk about is the botched realignment that occurred last winter. Perhaps those details are to be hammered out as well?

These issues, depending on how the NHLPA decides to react or play ball with the owners, coud be easy to iron out, or they could result in another lock out. The sides are due to continue discussions later this week.

 

 

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Columbus Blue Jackets Unveil New Third Jersey

Steven Stamkos Curtis Joseph #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs makes the save on Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 12, 2009 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Steven Stamkos;Curtis Joseph

The Heapmaster is a HUGE hockey fan. The Lightning have been tearing it up lately and I am finally making it to a game on Saturday! I can’t wait to finally return to The Forum. It’s been way too long.

I’m also a big fan of jerseys- histories, changes, additions. The big news today is that the Columbus Blue Jackets finally unveiled their third jersey. The concept of the third jersey has an interesting history in the NHL. The concept was most rampant in the 90’s  when it seemed that everyone and their mother was having a third jersey. (This seemed to usher in the “black era” in the NHL where EVERYONE tried to incorporate black into their color scheme)

The 90’s and early 2000’s were an experimental period for jerseys. Most concepts were horrendous, with giant alternate logos, crazy color schemes, and all sorts of abstract ideas. Here are some brutal ones:

The Dallas Stars had a classic one, nicknamed the “Mooterus” after the female reproductive system…

The Mooterus: NHL fans have a great sense of humor

The Anaheim (formerly) Mighty Ducks had a terrible one:

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Yes, this is a real jersey.

The Islanders might have faced copyright infringement charges.

Hey, isn't that the Gorton's fisherman?

The point is is that Thirds are historically bad, especially back in the day when a hockey jersey seemed to be a canvas for amateur designers. Thankfully, after the lockout, third jerseys took more of a throwback for most teams and less ostentatious and bizarre.

So here it is, the new Columbus Blue Jackets jersey:

This is third jersey perfection. I like the omission of red instead of using the usual color scheme for the team. It gives it more of a timeless look. The use of the circle crest is excellent, not to mention the use of the cannon as the main fixture of the logo.

A lot of the “leaking” information hinted at keeping a navy blue sweater. I wondered how this would work and be unique enough being that CBJ has a navy home jersey already! The attempt at delivering a tasteful “throwback-ish” distince sweater was wonderfully executed!

Kudos to the designers of this jersey!

Free Agent Frenzy!

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July 1 will most certainly be a hectic day for GMs as the NHL’s free agency period gets under way. Our primary concern this off season here at The Heap is Vincent Lecavalier.

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It’s no secret to the hockey world that my beloved Tampa Bay Lightning were bought by absolute amateurs. Oren Koules and Len Barrie are running the team into the ground. It began with trading away Dan Boyle, perhaps one of the premier defensemen in the game. Not one of my favorite players, but, as they say, you don’t know what you had until it’s gone. Of course, the greatest blunder? Hiring Barry Melrose as the head coach. The season was lost before it began.

The Bolts had a decent off season in 2008. The fan base was lulled into a false sense of… “Well maybe these guys KNOW what they are doing!” They brought back fan favorite Vinny Prospal (for like the 3rd time). They were able to get Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi from the Pens (Who recently received Stanley Cup post cards n the mail!). Evgeny Artyuhkin returned from a stint with CSKA Moscow. Even Adam Hall and David Koci paid dividends.

Questionable moves: Gary Roberts, Olaf Kolzig (Olie is one of my favorite goalies… was weird not seing him in Capitals garb) Radim Vrbata.

It’s past 12 am, and the city is not on fire, so I presume that Vinny has not been traded. He has probably made a million dollars in these 15 minutes thanks to the contract extension whch just went into effect. Good move… for now. Though I agree with arguments on both sides. Vinny’s been the face, but is it Stamkos’ time? Does Vinny deserve to play with a supporting class of what had become a glorified AHL team?

Or, can we rebuild in time, perhaps by the 2010-11 campaign. We need to make a splash in FA, particularly on defense. If I have to see Mike Smith face 40 shots every game again, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Hedman will hopefully be able to make immediate contributions, but we need to get some experience as well. Vaccines against the injury bug would be nice too…

So I’ll keep you up to date with anything big that goes on.

So far: Boumeester to the Flames, Pronger to Philly, and Scott Gomez to the Habs.

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We Want the Cup! 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here, which means it’s time for unfettered intensity. The hits are harder, the goaltending is stoic, and the defense is unforgiving. It also is a time for heroes to emerge, whether it be the usual stars of the game, a forgotten 40 year old, or a 4th liner, to score that game winning goal, to make that game saving shot block, or a goalie making an incredible save. And don’t forget the possibilities of a multiple overtimes.

It’s that time of the year. Drama reigns supreme. Jubilation and anguish hang in the balance. Who will it be this year?

The first games in all the series have been played. Here is what we know:

Roberto Luongo is still good… And that is a gross understatement. He may have made only 25 stops, but the quality of St. Louis’ shots were quite high. They made Luongo move and make important saves. His positioning and rebound control are eerily solid. Blues’ shooters could be having nightmares by the end of the series.

But so is Chris Mason. He was key to St. Louis’ playoff run in the second half of the season, and he kept them in the game on Wednesday. He must play flawlessly and the St. Louis offense must score- someway and somehow.

Torts on Broadway. Before former Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Tortorella was hired, the Rangers were fading. After? Well, they played well enough to get the 6 seed. Tortorella brings grit and discipline. And let’s not forget the ever-menacing Sean Avery, as well as the potentially explosive forwards Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund, and Chris Drury, who is out with an injury. Despite all of this, NYR’s success depends on Hendrik Lundqvist.

Ovie likes to shoot. 13 shots on goal? 0 goals? Really? Well at least he had 2 assists. I guess I’d want Ovechkin shooting that much too.

Brodeur is the best goalie in the history of the game. A Stanley Cup run will only solidify this. Much credit goes to the NJ defense, and that damn trap. Yuck.

The playoffs are MOST appreciated in Chicago. It’s been a long wait for ‘Hawks fans. There’s been a World Series, the success of the Baby Bulls, an NFC championship- heck, even the Fire have done well and made playoff appearences. A gutsy OT win over Calgary could ignite the team and the city, but beware of Kiprusoff.

Welcome to the “Dance.” Columbus has finally made the playoffs, becoming the last current NHL franchise to make postseason play. Just ask the organization, “What can Ken Hitchcock do for you?” That, and some planning for the future, which has quickly become the present. Solid goaltending from Steve Mason doesn’t hurt either.

Detroit is still the team to beat. As much as I hate to admit this, we all know it’s the case. Sure, the Sharks won the President’s trophy, but the mystique of playoff hockey in Hockeytown will live on. If Detroit were to choke this season, I don’t think it will be against the Jackets.

The Heap’s teams to root for: Columbus, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh

The Heap’s wish for Stanley Cup Champion: Chicago Blackhawks

The Heap’s Realistic SC Champ: Detroit Red Wings

There is one constant in all of this unpredictable mess. OT games are decided in either the first 5 or last 5 minutes of the specific OT period.

It’s a scientific fact. I promise.

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Lightning Hit the Streets to Beg Season Ticket Holders to Renew

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The team left the practice rink and took to the streets to hopefully persuade randomly chosen season ticket holders to renew for next season. Well guys, the way you’ve been playing, any fans that you have left are the clear diehards and probably won’t be the ones needing persuading anyway.

It’s good to see the Lightning are doing everything they can to improve after an embarrassing 9-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, they gave up NINE goals. Are we tanking in order to possibly have a better shot at a higher pick in a draft that is anticipated to be pretty stacked? Oh, absolutely not. No tanking necessary.

This team is that bad right now. No motivation, no heart, and ultimately no wins in the last who knows how many games. Those New York Islanders are getting closer and closer by the day. Another last place finish would be a disastrous, yet not unexpected, from rookie ownership, front office, and a clown of a (former) head coach.

Though it must be noted that the Bolts did indeed slash prices for next year, starting a wonderful trend which has caught fire league wide. My concern is what consequence this may have on the anticipated payroll for next year. We’ll have to see where the salary cap ends up, but the real question is if the Lightning will utilize the entirety of what is available. For God’s sake, we need like 4 defensemen.

So yes, the story of the day. As you see by the picture above, Vinny is out and about, making celebity appearences in order to entice Bolts Season Ticket holders to renew. I’ll just stick to my usual plan of getting the 10 dollar day of tickets and move down. Hey, tickets are like a general admission pass now with only 10K showing up!

Only one sound can totally encapsulate how this season has gone. Enjoy!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser