You’ll hear a lot about cliffs and brinks and the abyss in the coming days and weeks, both with the federal government and with the NHL. I won’t get into the federal budget fiscal cliff, and that might actually be messier than the NHL and with even bigger idiots. But we can stick with what we kind of know.
As we sit here and await whatever bouquet of flowers and candies the NHLPA cooks up in its offer tomorrow, you’ve already heard and will hear a lot about these contract issues. The union has made a big stink about how much they won’t budge on them just as the owners have. You have to wonder if it’s worth it. That’s if they can get to them, which they’d have to agree on revenue splits to do. No guarantees there.
I’m not sure some of it should really be that big of a deal.There are four points that they will argue about when it comes to individual contracts. A limit on length, a limit on variance in the compensation per year, age/experience to free agency, and entry-level deals.
The first two of these don’t have to be a major issue, because they apply to so few of the players. Look around, how many players have these 10-year deals with the funky accounting to lower the cap hit? No more than one or two on the big-market teams. The Hawks have two, in Hossa and Keith. The Rangers have one. The Bruins don’t have anyone over seven years. The Rangers have two in Richards and Nash, and they traded for Nash. The Flyers don’t have anyone over seven years. The Pens have one, and it’s Crosby. You get it. These kinds of deals apply to such a small percentage of the players, I wonder how much of the union really wants to fight for this.
Sure, five years is probably way restrictive. But the NBA is at six with allowances for a seventh if certain criteria are met. That doesn’t sound all that ridiculous. And there are more players in the NHL working off two- and three-year deals than are not anyway.
Secondly, the window to sign these deals is so small, that rules out even more of the players. You really wouldn’t want to sign one of these at 21 or 22. Kane and Toews didn’t. There’s no telling how things will go, and you might be able to cash in even more at 27 or 28 with another contract. Most organizations would be awfully wary of signing a player over 30 to these kinds of deals, which lessens the opportunity to get one. Basically, you’re only going to sign these deals between the ages of 25-29/30. And you have to be a star, or at least a burgeoning one. How many players does that describe at any given time?
To add to this, there are probably some players who regret signing those long deals. Sure, it worked out in the end for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. They didn’t think so when they got traded. And not every player who gets moved under these deals is going to get to win a Cup immediately. Rick Nash signed one and then saw everything turn to shit around him. There are others. And a GM would have to be totally off his meds to hand one of these out with a no-movement clause. They’re out there, but there not many. The chance at one of these deals is just so scarce.
Obviously, it’s a wedge issue the owners are getting at here, trying to divide the proletariat of the union from its aristocratic. The union of course will rally around anything they deem meant to divide them. But the time has come to ignore what the other side really means and more to how to get to a deal. And most of the players really have to ask themselves if these kinds of rules are ever going to apply to them. You’d have to think to at least 65-70% of them, it doesn’t. Do they really want to risk everything to prop up the privileged few among them? Maybe that’s just my socialist heart bleeding out, but I think it’s a valid question.
As far as free agency and entry-level deals, they’re just isn’t that big of a difference from where they are and where each want to go. I can’t imagine how that’s going to hold up things if they get to them after settling the other things.