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.

 

 

FAF: We’ve Got the 5 Hole Covered

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The Bolts finally plugged up the back up goalie position with the acquisition of free agent Antero Niittymaki, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers. He is a capable back up, as he had been developing well in the Flyers’ farm system prior to a string of injuries.

The contract is a 1 year, 600k contract, so if he turns out to be riddled with more injuries and/or have an unexplicable case of sucky-ness, we’re only locked in for a year. (Lesson learned from the Marc Denis debacle). He also provides a nice insurance policy is Smitty’s post concussion syndrome continues to hamper his playing ability.

Antero Niittymaki #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the New Jersey Devils on December 21, 2008 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Antero Niittymaki

I believe he can start if the situation arises, and that he will be extra motivated this year. I mean, he was almost shipped off to play in Russia for a year, so I think he will make the best of his opportunity this year. If anything, he’ll push Smitty during training camp. At 600K, it’s a bargain for a 29 year old.

In other news, Viktor Hedman signed a standard rookie deal, and unveiled his jersey number of choice as 77. Hopefully it well become feared on that blue line. Here’s to hoping!

FAF: Wrap Up

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The Bolts made two huge pick ups during the initial flurry of the free agent signing period. GM Brian Lawton ponied up and signed stud defenseman Mattias Ohland, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. The Swede bolsters a blue line in which about 20 different players played the position for the team last year. More importantly, he will serve as a mentor to fellow Swede Viktor Hedman, the draft’s 2nd overall pick.

A 7 year contract seems a bit excessive for a player with injury problems and 33 come October, but he is a proven talent- and any talent is better than the disaster of a defense we had last year.

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In addition, Lawton added defenseman Matt Walker, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks. He is solid and tough. You won’t see his name on the score sheet too often, but the Bolts have plenty of firepower for now. If we can work on the transition game, the Lightning could once again return to competitive prowess.

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These two moves, as well as bringing back Lukas Krajicek all of the sudden remove the liability tag from the D. If Mike Smith recovers from his concussion, I think we could be in the running for a lower seed in the playoffs. I don’t expect the Lightning to make a big splash from now until the beginning of the season. We are still lacking a back up goalie, and that’s probably the only major move that needs to happen.

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FAF: Update

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All is quiet on the FA front. And I’m surprised to say it could stay that way for a bit. In reading through some articles, OK Hockey was quoted saying that they are going to “tiptoe” into the market this time around. This greatly contrasts the Yankees approach- let’s buy everyone and hope it works out. Hopefully the owners have learned their lesson. Leave that type of manangement to the Steinbrenners- who can actually pull it off.

My favorite quote from the interview with GM Brian Lawton:

“A lot of guys have been calling us to let us know who they have available, an abnormal amount of calls, actually,” Lawton said. “They see Tampa Bay as a desirable place to play and people look at our team and the players we have and us being better than a 29th-place team, a team that they want to be a part of.”

Riiiight. Who wouldn’t want to play in front of the biggest bandwagon community in the US? The only calls I can see Lawton receiving were trade offers for Vinny, Marty and Malone. Attendance absolutely plummetted. We had been in the TOP 5 for the past few years. Perhaps players want to play here, but do the fans want to pay to see them play here? Has the front office received “an abnormal amount” of calls for season ticket renewals? I doubt it.

As I wrote yesterday, we need help on the blue line. And apparently a back up goalie. I wasn’t aware that Kari Ramo had skipped town to go play for the KHL in Russia. At least we still have his rights. Lightning beat writer for the Tampa Tribune Erik Erlendsson has put together a list of who the Bolts are looking at.

Goaltenders 

Ty Conklin, Detroit – Veteran journeyman has proven he’s capable of stepping in and winning games with Pittsburgh and Detroit the past two seasons. 2008-09 salary: $750,000

Scott Clemmensen, New Jersey – Saved the Devils’ season last year by winning 25 games when Martin Brodeur went down; looking for fair opportunity. 2008-09 salary: $500,000

Kevin Weekes, New Jersey – Former Lightning netminder is a reliable backup capable of stepping in should the need arise. 2008-09 salary: $700,000

Craig Anderson, Florida – Took over No. 1 role in Florida at times last season, but might be seeking a chance at a No. 1 job. 2008-09 salary: $525,000

Mathieu Garon, Pittsburgh – Has No. 1 experience despite playing just 19 games last season and was a shootout specialist for Edmonton two seasons ago. 2008-09 salary: $1 million

 

Defensemen

 

Rob Scuderi, Pittsburgh – Stock rose with strong playoffs as a stay-at-home defenseman. 2008-09 salary: $725,000

Mattias Ohlund, Vancouver – Consistent 25- to 30-point producer could be an ideal mentor for fellow Swede Victor Hedman. 2008-09 salary: $3.5 million

Steve Montador, Boston – Two-way 29-year-old also adds element of physicality to his game. 2008-09 salary: $800,000

Philippe Boucher, Pittsburgh – Injuries have limited the former All-Star the past two seasons, but he can still provide solid play; plus he’s a right-handed shot. 2008-09 salary: $2.5 million

Steve Eminger, Florida – Played well during his time with Lightning last season, but he couldn’t crack the lineup for the Panthers, who didn’t give him a qualifying offer. 2008-09 season: $1.2 million

Conklin is a solid goaltender, but for the sake of tradition, he needs to go play for either Philly or Boston so he can start in the Winter Classic. In all seriousness, he’s probably the best bet.

I’m skeptical of Kevin Weekes, just from when he played here in the past. Granted, those teams were God-awful, and he was ok. And well, Clemmenson did step it up this year. It must have been nice to actually have been noticed. I didn’t know Martin Brodeur had a back up… 😉

Anderson and Garon are average at best. I’d like us to take a run at Rolosson. I know, I’m all about Mike Smith. But still, we need someone to push him. I’ll be happy with Conklin.

That list of defensemen is spectacular. If we could afford Ohlund, that would be ideal, but Scuderi/ Montador would be quite acceptable. Boucher’s injuries concern me, but as noted, he was fantastic before.

We’ll see where the day and the upcoming weeks take us.

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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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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!

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Regrettably Back Home…

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But not because I don’t want to write for you heapsters. Alas, I have returned from my trip to Austin, Texas! I had a blast, to say the least, but details will be coming the rest of this week, so forgive my brevity regarding specific details! Though the trip did leave me with quite a dilemma. I don’t really know what I love more, Angel, or Texas! Needless to say, it was QUITE the great vacation.

Unfortunately, my little hiatus left me gravely disconnected (quite literally) from the world! Our various pages have been UPDATED (Rays, Bucs, Notre Dame). Speaking of the Rays, they CLINCHED a playoff birth! Congratulations to our hometown boys, and their first venture into the post season. But of course, there is still a division to win! The magic number has been reduced to 2, meaning the Rays can potentially clinch tomorrow, if Boston loses and they Rays finish off the sweep of Baltimore. Here’s a video of the Tropicana Field Madness after clinching a playoff berth!

The Bucs also won surprisingly in OT in Chicago, while Notre Dame lost to Michigan State. The Tampa Bay Lightning have also opened training camp and have even played a few pre season games, opening the Barry Melrose Era, or the regime of the mullet. We’ll have a page for them up tomorrow probably.

So as you probably are expecting, there will be a new TTMC with stories and adventures from Texas. Also, a movie review should be up as well! And I haven’t forgotten about our sci fi list! We should wrap that up by this weekend. In addition, I always have some random, crazy stories to share that I find online! You can expect some of those too. We’ll get back to it tomorrow!

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