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Tempered Optimism from the NHL’s Proposal

Hello folks.  Not much been going on around here lately.  That’s partially my fault.  I told Eric I’d write some pieces and I didn’t.  I could list a bunch of excuses, but you’ve already heard them (school, crew, paid job at Around the Rings, sorry needless product placement for my job), and the excuses are tedious at this point.

I was going to write something about the New York Rangers going after Shane Doan, but that story is like 3 months old.  Again, sorry.  Well, we did get one piece of exciting news as NHL fans today.

The NHL gave the Players Association its counter-offer and it’s got a lot of concessions:

  • 50/50 Hockey Related Revenue split
  • 82 Game season starting November 2nd
  • 12% rollback on salaries due to reduced revenue for the players, but it’s guaranteed and will be paid back during the life of a players contract
  • 3 year long Entry Level Contracts (I have read 2 years though from Pierre Lebrun)
  • Unrestricted Free Agency automatically at 28 or 8 years of NHL service
  • 5 year cap on Non-Rookie deals
  • AHL contracts would count against the Cap
  • Potential to retain salaries in trades
  • The CBA would last until 2018

Donald Fehr at today’s press conference discussing the proposal

That’s an um… interesting proposal.  On paper it breeds optimism from NHL fans on first glance.  The internet has been abuzz with many NHL fans lauding this deal and urging the NHLPA to take it and end this frivolous lockout.

The more I look at it, the more I realize its the same crap the NHL has been operating under with a few minor tweaks.

Shall we look at each point’s pros and cons?

50/50 HRR Split

I can grudgingly support this one.  I think the players should get more than 50% of Hockey Related Revenue because the owners simply have more revenue opportunities.  The NBA last year adopted a 51.2% share of Basketball Related Revenue for the players, which I bet had a huge impact on these negotiations.  I feel a 52/48 or 53/47 split is “Fair” for these negotiations, but this is one of the points I feel that can be worked out to just get the deal done.

82 Game Season Starting November 2nd

I want everyone to take a second to stop and think about this one.  Yes, hockey would be starting ASAP and it would be a full season, but is that really the best course of action here?  To get 2 full weeks of training camp it would have to start THIS FRIDAY.  That’s is wildly unreasonable with many players in Europe currently.

There also would not be any preseason.  Many rookies looking to make NHL teams would struggle because they’d only have training camp to impress coaches, and there would be little opportunities outside scrimmages to figure out team chemistry, line combinations, make cuts, and grow as a team.

Another problem would be that condensing an 82 game schedule into less time would be even more taxing on the players.  They would have to schedule the playoffs later to avoid this, which would make the offseason shorter.  I doubt the NHL or the NHLPA want that.  The solution would be to cram as many games possible into a shorter period of time, which could lead to more injuries and player fatigue.

The NHL is cashing in on the immediacy of the deal to tug at the heartstrings of NHL fans hoping they won’t realize how it will affect the quality of play for the beginning of the season.  The NHL brass doesn’t care about the quality of play then, they only care about money.  Does anyone else find that a little insulting?

The PA should say thank you for trying to get the season done so early, but let’s sacrifice a few more weeks make it a 70 game season, get a preseason in, and do this right.  Hopefully Fehr can keep the union firm while saying that (hint: He should be more than able to, this man orchestrated the 1994 MLB strike).

12% rollback on salaries due to reduced revenue for the players, but it’s guaranteed and will be paid back during the life of a players contract

This is born out of the fact that the players share of HRR is being reduced 7%.  Thus the Salary Cap which is tied to the amount of revenue that the players received will have to go down.  The only way to not screw over teams would be to ask the players for a rollback, but since the money that they were promised from contracts this offseason would still be guaranteed I am fine with this.

It’s actually the most logical thing the NHL did with this proposal.

3 year long Entry Level Contracts (I have read 2 years though from Pierre Lebrun)

This one is fine; if it stays the same.  2 year deals for ELCs is too short.  3 is a healthy compromise because it allows rookies to become RFAs and Arbitration eligible at the end.  I don’t think this is a big deal if it is not changed.

Unrestricted Free Agency automatically at 28 or 8 years of NHL service

Unrestricted Free Agency is currently allowed for NHL players at age 27 or after 7 years of service in the NHL.  This is an effort to keep players under team controls longer and keep salaries down.

If this keeps the owners from being complete idiots with how they spend, fine.  Its much better than getting UFA after 10 years of service or at age 30.

5 year cap on Non-Rookie Deals

I’m actually really ok with this one.  I’ve been an advocate for contract limits for a while as it does keep player salary up if they’ve earned their new deals and it prevents the massively front loaded deals that caused this lockout.

There needs to be a grandfather clause for older deals though.  Especially the ones signed this past offseason.

AHL Salary Counts Against the Cap

Yeah I think this is incredibly stupid.  The AHL already has a salary cap and it would bring back Wade Redden to the New York Rangers (Unrelated: totally cool with that unlike the rest of the fanbase.  I love you Wade!).

Stashing large contracts in the AHL is not ideal, but taking money away from the salary cap, aka NHL players, would lower salaries and could harm teams.  I don’t understand where this came from and think its needless.

Potential to retain salary during trades

YES!  That’s really all I’m going to add to this one.  It’s a pre-lockout thing and should have never left.

The CBA would last until 2018

Cool?  I understand that you don’t want to have an outdated CBA in about 7-8 years so again whatever.  Apathy here.

I just don’t want to do this again in 2018.  That’s what I’m seriously worried about.  This combined with the leaked information about the “Focus Groups” has me very skeptical.

Yes, the NHL proposal has some great things in it, but its also pitting the fans against the PA in its rushed timeframe.  Lost are:

  • Revenue Sharing
  • Changes in Restricted Free Agency

In my mind this is the biggest thing. There is no plan for a stable economic checks in place to prevent this rich owner vs. small owner fight from ever happening again.

This is what happened in Major League Baseball in the 1990s.  They lost 3(!!!) Collusion cases and after the 1994 MLB strike adopted a revenue sharing plan with a luxury tax and hasn’t had a labor stoppage since.  Even the NBA and NFL have a soft caps that encourages revenue sharing to help smaller market clubs.

The NHL is the last league to adopt this.  They refuse to tinker with the core economic livelihood of the league, painting the PA as greedy, and shifting the fight over to Hockey Related Revenue.  I would get into Changes in Restricted Free Agency, but I feel changing the way NHL clubs share revenue would help alleviate the system we have in place.

The PR hype-machine on this offer is fantastic.  It had me fooled for a brief second.  The thought of hockey coming back made me so excited, it was fantastic.  Then I remembered the Knicks were going to be good this year, the NHL is full of lying sleazebags and I had to read the rest of the damn proposal.

They’re going to hammer in the concessions they made as “Saving” the NHL through “shared sacrifice” while leadings us to believe it won’t happen again in 2018.  It very well may.  The owners are fantastic at abusing systems.  It’s our 3rd lockout in 18 years, that is no easy feat to accomplish.

Henrik Lundqvist warms up for the Winter Classic. I want hockey back as much as the next guy, but I have guarded optimism.

For now I hope that Donald Fehr and his team keep the Union strong, read over the proposal and give another offer.  Hockey isn’t going to start November 2nd.  That’s a fact unless in 2 days a deal is signed.  This was a major step forward, and the NHL PR machine WILL remind you of it.
The only thing is I hope NHL Fans are smart and remember when the PA did something similar in 2004.  They offered the 24% rollbacks in mid-December, yet we lost a full season because the NHL wanted to win it all.

This seems different, but I’m not fully sold yet.  The PA shouldn’t be either, and neither should you.

About the author:  Aaron is an international studies student from a small town in New Jersey that no one has heard of, although he's been relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. While he isn't studying or trying to prove Thrashers fans exists, Aaron is on a never ended quest to defend Wade Redden's name. His all time favorite Rangers is Brian Leetch, but other favorites include Henrik Lundqvist, Markus Naslund, and the rest of the Swedish National Team.

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