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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