Welcome Distractions Version 1 – CBA Negotiations


It’s pretty well official that it is now the time of year to look for any possible way to be distracted from what wears blue and white and allegedly plays hockey in Canada.  With the weather improving and the longer daylight hours being the first of many welcome ways to do something else, we will try to occasionally do the same here.  It really isn’t fair to hammer this team too much more, they are what they are.  The same goes for the coaching staff and the management.  So without further interuption, here are things to look for during the next CBA negotions.

What The Owners Will Want

-A 7% roll back in revenue share between players and owners.  This will be a huge one as the NBA was recently able to get a similar give back but only after half of the season was cancelled.  The players will be hesitant to agree to something like this, and having Donald Fehr at the helm for the players creates an environment that may be more adversarial than the one that existed when the entire season was cancelled.

-Elimination of guaranteed contracts.  This will also be a major fighting point among the owners as the NFL design is much more appealing.  The trouble in professional sports contracts is that you are always being paid for what you have previously done, not what you are going to do.  It’s kind of like those disclaimers that come from stock analysts – “past performance does not guarantee future results”.  Look for the owners to find some way to get out from under bad contracts.

-Less restrictive buyout rules both in terms of cap hit and actual dollars paid.  This is an issue that could cause world war 3 by the time the negotiations start.  The owners argument here is that they should have some way to reasonably get out from under any contract, be it performance or any other factor.  The current buyout rules encourage practices such as moving contracts to larger markets to be buried or to just simply live with them until the term expires.

-Trading salary between teams.  Brian Burke has been proposing this at GM meetings for years and from the sounds of the insiders he may get his wish.  The idea is that more trades can occur if the team trading the player is allowed to eat part of the salary of the traded player.  The most recent example of this under the previous CBA was when Jaromir Jagr was moved from Washinton to the NY Rangers, Washington ate a signifigant amount of money.  A stipulation like this could make the trade deadline day a little bit more active.

-Limitation on term on NHL contracts.  This is almost certain to happen as a few teams exercised the ability to do this within the previous CBA and the other owners that either lost players or had to give similar contracts will want this gone.  NHL careers like those of most professional athletes are littered with uncertainty.  Having players under contract for a decade or more is a huge financial obligation to take on and most organizations can’t afford to take this risk.  It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the insurance companies that protect the contracts put an end to this practice also.

-Hard to tell if it will get any steam, but there was talk more than a year ago about limiting the amount of No Trade clause contracts that can be handed out.

What The Players Will Want

-Forget a 7% rollback, they will want nothing to do with it.  Same goes for removing the guarantee on contracts.  The players biggest goal will be to keep at the very least the same deal that was negotiated 6 years ago.  The issue they will have is leverage, which it appears they have very little.  There are still close to a dozen franchises that are financially in dire straits and the League is looking to shore this up.

-The players union may look to have some kind of position in terms of relocation of franchises.  Nobody will argue the honor in attempting to rescue the team in Phoenix, Az but the players may have an issue with the business continuing to operate there.  The salary cap is determined by hockey related revenue and when certain franchises are considered financial sink holes, the players may want the ability to have a voice in the ability to move these teams.  They are stakeholders in the process by the very fact that they earn their money based on the NHL income.

-The ability of teams to “dump” salary in the minor leagues may also be an issue.  The union can’t be happy that Wade Redden has not played an NHL game in 2 seasons and the Rangers have basically ended his career.  If he was to walk away from the team he would earn the reputation of not being cooperative and failing to fulfill his obligations to the Rangers.  This would severely hamstring his ability to get another NHL contract, which has to concern the players.

-The players badly want to play in the Sochi Olympics in 2 years and will fight hard for this.  The owners will more than likely give in to this, but the players will have to give something up to get it.

Beyond the owners and players, a fight may begin to occur between the 2 seperate segments of NHL owners.  The owners of large market teams such as Toronto and NY may not love the fact that they have to operate to the same salary cap as smaller teams.  This stems from the fact that these teams have historically had to pay larger amounts to get players into their markets.  The owners of larger markets will push for more financial responsibility in the operation of the smaller market teams.  With luck all of the CBA nonsense will end faster than it takes the Maple Leafs to give up a goal.