October 18 2012 09:34AM
1. So now the NHL is willing to play ball
Forgive the mixed sports metaphors, but y'know, finally.
I don't remember exactly how long we went between the league's last offer and Tuesday's, but it was clear the NHLPA wasn't going to sit there and try to negotiate off a proposal that was as ludicrous as the one the league was putting out there. Not that I don't think the decision to create the appearance of greater flexibility was influenced by Deadspin leaking that focus group garbage the league was pushing, because that's all the offer was a response to, but at least we're now moving in the right direction.
Make no mistake about it: This is fairly close to where the league hopes it will end up. A 50/50 split of revenues and a full 82-game season and all that fun stuff, but the ancillary details leave a lot to be desired, both because of what they leave out, and what they're still trying to force the players to swallow as part of this transparent PR move.
Again, at least it got everyone talking, and generated a PA offer that should come out later today. But if the league was saying "Take it or leave it," then I'm glad the PA told them this wasn't good enough. They want a deal by the 25th to get the full 82, and that's not gonna happen, but everyone is slightly more optimistic that we don't lose more than 20 or 25 games (I'm hoping for 58 games at this point, so everyone plays each other twice, home and away). I guess, at the end of the day, you take that.
So without further ado, here's what I think are the two best and worst things about this new NHL proposal...
2. Good: Sticking cap circumventers with their bad contracts
Two things here were just amazing. The first is that if you signed a player to a giant contract that lasts years and years, with the intention of the player not playing the back end of those years, then you're stuck with the full cap hit when they retire. And the best part is: That includes if they are able to trade that player to another team. For instance: Say the Canucks move Luongo right now and he retires after five seasons there (at age 38). The Canucks then would get back his cap hit for the remainder of the deal, another five years, as a penalty for trying to be pricks. That's great.
Then the other one is that if you try to stick too many big-money one-way contracts in the minors (The Rangers Rule, we'll call it), those also count against your team's cap. Wow, it's like the league is finally trying to make teams take responsibility for signing terrible deals. Imagine that.
Closing these cap loopholes is very good. Not necessarily for the players, but for the league and its credibility.
3. Bad: Restricted free agency as indentured servitude
The NHL's plan would expand the age and amount of service time under which a player can gain unrestricted free agency from the current "seven seasons or 27 years old" levels to "eight seasons or 28 years old." That's not good, and that's something over which the players are going to pitch a fit.
That's one less year of relative prime (the general consensus being that point production tends to peak at 24) in which players are free to negotiate openly with other teams for their services, and therefore one less year in which they can truly Get Paid if they choose to do so. This is a clear effort to keep player costs down and one that limits the ability of guys to fairly negotiate for amounts of money commensurate to their contributions.
Fortunately, it's a relatively safe guess that this isn't a hard-and-fast sticking point for the league, because again, the PA wouldn't swallow this.
4. Good: Reducing the cost of second contracts
With that stuff about players being able to earn what they're worth having been said, I do think that this decision leads to the re-institution, in some ways, of the second contract that Kevin Lowe erased by being an offer-sheeting idiot with Tom Vanek a few years back.
It's not that I don't think players should be rewarded with whatever contracts they and their teams think they deserve, but again there is supposed to be SOME give and take here, so yeah, slight givebacks in the form of the re-introduction of an intermediary contract between an entry-level deal and a veteran one makes a little sense. This is largely accomplished by having entry-level deals now only last two years, instead of the five the league originally proposed.
One supposes that, then means the "second contracts" will typically be three years, and will grant players on ELCs a raise. Where this is most interesting, to me, is how it affects top-level guys who come in with cap hits in excess of $3 million because, while they're only technically making rookie max, they're also loaded up on contract bonuses that are somewhat attainable. This helps players to earn more through actual salary more quickly, at least in theory, which protects them in the event of injuries or the like that hold them out of the lineup.
5. Bad: Still nothing on hockey-related revenue
One thing the NHL's proposal didn't address was what defines HRR. And that's why we're in this whole argument in the first place. So, again, nice try but anyone paying attention knows this offer is only semi-serious, and not something the NHLPA will have the slightest interest in signing as-is.
Until you come to a decision about what it is — or even start talking about it — then why are we even bothering?