I’ve said all along that once the money was settled the rest of the CBA would pretty much fall into place. I still think that’s the way it is going to work out and we’ll see the league play a little more than half a season. (I can’t decide how I feel about that. I will be happy to see some hockey, but I can’t imagine how that can wash the bad taste of this season away. And I can imagine being outraged again next year if the Canucks are forced to dump talent because the salary cap crashes.)
Tyler Dellow has written about the remaining major sticking points blocking an agreement. I agree with what he wrote about the term of the new collective agreement. Most fans may be hoping for a long deal simply so we won’t have to endure this again for at least another decade. I’m with the players on this one because I think a long deal makes a lockout ten years down the road a near certainty. We’d see a repeat of this season with the NFL, NBA and NHL all bent on extracting another chunk of cash from the players with a “give us the money or we lock you out” bargaining strategy.
Would the NHL dare adopt that same approach in four or five years? In six? I’m betting the league would find a way to make a deal next time around if the CBA term is short.
On the other issue, I think both Tyler and the NHLPA are wrong on the length of player contract dispute. I do not believe long contracts help the middle class at the expense of the rich. In fact, I think it does the reverse. It gives the stars money that would otherwise go to the rank and file. (It may be true that the CBA as a whole hurts the elite players more than the lesser lights, but I can’t see any argument that concludes that these long contracts do anything to help most players.) Yes, the structure of Parise’s contract makes cap space available for middle class players, but cap space is not dollars and players are paid in dollars.
Over the first nine years of his contract, Parise will be paid some $20 MM over his cap hit. That money is made up (through escrow) by all the players in the league. The Wild will then probably buy out the Parise contract and take a cap hit of about $800,000 over the next eight years. Those payments will also be made out of the pockets of all the players.
The problem with these deals from the league perspective is that they are clearly cap circumvention. The Wild are gaining about $20 MM in cap space over the first nine years and paying it back with about $5.3 MM in space over the following eight. Teams that can’t afford these types of deals – a significant majority of teams – consider them cheating, because, well, they are cheating the spirit of the cap. Bettman must be under considerable pressure to ban them.
Fehr’s premise is that Parise would get substantially more money per year on a shorter contract. I don’t think that is necessarily true. A team like the Canucks (or the Wild in this case) are willing to spend a lot more than the salary cap allows them to spend. The issue for the Canucks will never be the dollars. The issue for them will always be the cap hit. They would happily give a Parise quality player $12 MM a year, but they would never allocate that much cap space to him. Absent these long contracts, a Parise would get somewhat more on a shorter deal, but I don’t think he will get a ton more. Teams need top notch players to win, but they also need quantity as well as quality. Spending $12 MM (in cap space) on a single player is not a winning strategy in my opinion.
I don’t know how the parties will sort these issues out but I don’t have any doubt that they will. After all they have given up, the players are not going to tank the whole year over a couple of years on the term of the CBA. The league will not sink another season to stop teams from signing a player to a seven year contract.
A deal is coming. We’ll see how many people still care.