Guest Post: A Rational Response To The NHL Owners' CBA Proposal

Author's Note: My name is Tim Freitag, and I'm addicted to the NHL and the Wild. I've written in the past for Hockey's Future as well as the Winonan student paper at Winona State University as well as being included 4 times in John Buccigross's Blogumn. You can follow me @KariTakko.

I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve had some time to let the initial proposal from NHL owners sink in a bit. The thought I keep coming back to is that I hope NHL owners are not willing to take these negotiations to a lockout. I’m a rational guy and a rabid hockey fan, so I’d like to play arbiter and offer my suggestions for compromise. (As a married man, I’m an expert in compromise.)

Reduction in players’ hockey related revenues from 57% to 46%.

My primary concern with a dramatic change in how HRR is split is the fact that there may be a salary rollback similar to the last cba. This would be a major sticking point for a large contingent, and was a major point of contention in the last go round.

It seems obvious the players won’t accept what would be a reduction of 13.6mil to the salary cap next season. This proposal would also put GMs in a tough spot as 17 of the 30 teams would be over the cap. A reduction to 51% would be more likely, but I believe a tick down would be in order. This season, keep the HRR percentage for players at 57% and tick it down 2% per season. With the increases in the cap over the last few season, this would keep the cap about where it stands over the next 4 seasons until HRR is at 51%.

My opinion is this would be a more favorable compromise than rolling back player salaries. After all, these players were offered these salaries, and no one told the owners they had to dole out the money.

10 NHL seasons before UFA eligibility

Not much will change for players entering the league at 18 or 19 years old, but I believe this would really hurt college hockey. Players with a shot at the NHL will opt to play junior so they can make the move to pro hockey sooner. A player who plays USHL and then moves on to a college commitment until 22 or 23 years old won’t be eligible for UFA until their mid-thirties.

I don’t see the players budging on this proposal. A nice compromise would be to award UFA status at 28 years old. With a 5 year maximum contract, this would take players from 28 to 33 where they can still provide value and get another decent contract. This provides owners and players stability.

5 Year Limit on Contracts

I actually love this proposal. Long term contracts have gotten out of hand, and this is a condition of GMs and owners circumventing the spirit of the last CBA and average player salaries. Taking a look at some of the latest long term contracts, teams are signing players to 12-13 year contracts with 4-5 years tacked onto the end to take down the cap hit.

If Suter and Parise were signed to a 5 year contract, their average cap hit would be 10.6 million. I understand that Fletcher played within the rules, but this is why contracts are getting out of hand.

A reasonable compromise would be to limit contracts to 5 years, but perhaps allow 25% of the contract as a signing bonus which would not be counted against the cap. In this scenario, Suter and Parise would hypothetically get a 40 million dollar contract over a 5 year term with a 10 million dollar signing bonus. That contract would bring both players to 32 years old where they could sign another nice contract.

No More Salary Arbitration

This is a sticky topic, because it could lead to NHL players holding out, and it may also result in more offer sheets to restricted free agents. While most GMs and agents try to avoid arbitration like the plague, it is an option if there is a stalemate.

This is an absolute black and white proposal from the owners. The compromise in this situation may be to reduce compensation for offer sheets. If the most a team had to give up was two 1 st rounders to acquire a restricted free agent like Shea Weber or Steven Stamkos,it would result in two things. Their current teams would be more motivated to get those players locked up. Also, there would be more offer sheets submitted which would increase RFA movement.

5 Year Entry Level Contracts

This is the most likely proposal that players may be ok with. Players who would be affected by this aren’t part of the NHLPA yet. I’ve read that the entry level contracts would be guaranteed for 3 years with years 4 and 5 going to a team option. A five year entry level contract would result in bigger second contracts.

Steven Stamkos is a prime example of this. After 3 years and a couple of 90+ point seasons, he signed his second contract at a 7.5mil average cap hit. After season 4, it could be debated that he deserves more than that, and season 5 could make him even more valuable.

I think a nice compromise for this would be to allow teams to negotiate contract extensions after 3 seasons for entry level players. This compromise would give players, who have earned it, stability and security. It would also give teams negotiating rights to lock up a valuable player for a long time without risking an offer sheet. Players would then have the choice whether or not to cash in after year 3 or to gamble and take it to year 5.

I’m sorry that this is pretty boring reading, but these are pretty boring topics. As a hockey fan, I wish there was a little less business and a little more action. My hope is that these issues are resolved and the season starts on time without the players getting raked over the coals. I also hope that owners realize that fans have already been screwed out of a season once, and many will not stand for being screwed twice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Editor's Note: Thanks again Tim. As always, First Round Bust has an open pulpit policy. If you have something Wild, Minnesota hockey or NHL-related (good or bad), then send it in to firstroundbust (at) gmail (dot) com.

3 comments:

  1. Might another compromise to the contract length limit be that a team can only have "x" amount of contracts over 5 years? Perhaps with a further restriction. A team can only have two contracts over 5 years in length at any one time and none over 10 years (for instance). Once a player signed to a 7 year contract goes below 5 you can sign another.

    well done post.

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  2. I think they should guarantee the cap will not go down. . it just won't go UP until the new calculation (based on whatever percentage is agreed to) exceeds the current cap. If you look at how fast the cap has been rising, that shouldn't be too much of a hardship for the owners and gives them what they need long-term.

    That would also allow you to not have to rollback any salaries (the players will like that), and not allow extravagant owners off the hook (the other owners will like that).

    I think even, say, a 7 year limit on contract length would be a useful step forward. Five is a owner fantasy, I think.

    Max percentage change per year of something like 20-30% feels right to me, including any signing bonus --which doesn't technically eliminate signing bonuses, but probably does as a functional matter.

    I don't like increasing entry contract lengths, I think that's unfair to the players, particularly the really good ones. It's a violent sport, and disaster can happen at any point. . .a Stamkos or someone like that should be able to at least get market value on a one year arbitration deal after three years of showing he's a total stud. But, you may be right. . .the players might not care so much. However, the agents will, and will influence the players on that point.

    I don't see the players agreeing to increase free agency age at 27. I could see them allowing the elimination of the 25-26 yr old exception ("or 7 years") that doesn't impact many of them.

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  3. Btw, some of this stuff has to work together or it doesn't work at all. For instance, if free agency is at 27, do the owners *really* want a 5 year max contract? That's saying they want to renegotiate with the face of the franchize stud when he's 32 years old? I don't think so. . . Five year max only works if you get the 10 years before free agency thing. . .and not always then (see the 18 year old face of the franchise stud, free agent at 28, renegotiating at 33).

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