We are seeing more and more references to the expiring CBA and what will be in store for us after next season. First, there was this from Larry Brooks:
This is what the league wanted to use as evidence that the system is hopelessly broken and tilted in favor of the big markets — the system, of course, that Bettman, counsel Bob Batterman and the Board invented and painted as a utopia the last time around.
Next time, the NHL is going to introduce the ultimate one-size-fits-all cap. Percentage of the gross will be dramatically reduced. The midpoint will essentially become the cap, with the ceiling and floor separated by perhaps $4 million-$6 million. Deviations of salary within a contract will be kept to a minimum. The cap charge will be defined by the average of the three-to-five highest salaried seasons. Contracts will be kept to a minimum of five-to-seven years.
The only appealing thing about Larry Brooks is that he distrusts and despises Gary Bettman. Unfortunately Brooks seldom makes any sense because his basic premise is all wrong. Even after Bettman designed the last CBA to heavily favour the big markets, Brooks still believes Bettman actually wanted to handcuff the Rangers in 2004 and that he still wants to handcuff them today.
What Bettman wants to do is keep the floundering U.S. franchises afloat, while good teams in the big centres drive up American revenues. The Rangers, Black Hawks, Bruins and Kings have all done better – far better – under this CBA. (Obviously this is a good system for Vancouver, too.) While Bettman will surely demand a bigger piece of the pie so he can shovel more cash to the needy, he sure isn’t interested in making it harder for New York to win.
Next up? The ever reliable Stan Fischler who has already decided that Donald Fehr is the new bogeyman:
…If you’re a hockey fan, you should fear Donald Fehr. A lot…
I know it’s possible, but I just can not picture Fehr announcing that he had just negotiated a deal that includes a salary cap.
The one thing that is very nearly certain is that the players will not go out on strike to get rid of the salary cap or a fixed percentage of the revenues. They’ve done that, been there and it was not a pleasant experience. But never mind that Donald Fehr has very little leverage entering the next set of negotiations. Like Bob Goodenow before him, Donald Fehr will become Fischler’s Bete Noire. It will be his fault no matter what issues are presented.
Finally, there is Bobby Orr:
“Where are [the owners] going to go? What do they want? What are they going to give and what are they going to take? There’s not a lot. For that reason, I think they will work it out. I think.”
I agree. If there is a work stoppage, it will be the owners who create it with a lockout and their key demand – their only important demand – will be reducing the player share of the pie. They will also want – but probably won’t insist upon – contract term limits. In exchange, they will concede the Olympics and promise an increase in revenue sharing.
At the end of the day, like Orr, I think they will work it out. Its hard to imagine a work stoppage actually paying for the league unless they can win a huge discount. If both the NBA and NFL players are forced into a deal that gives them less than 50% of revenues, the NHL might take a hard line, but turning out the lights on the season to reduce the player take by a few million a team? I don’t think the league will shut it down to cut salaries by 5%.
Colour me optimistic. I think.
Postscript: Optimistic only in the sense that there will be hockey in 2012-13. I don’t like this CBA or the framework or Gary Bettman, but I can’t imagine any of that changing in the near term. I’d feel burned if I cheered for a small market team, but at least this system helps the Canucks.