Kukla's Korner


A confusing fizzle of a CBA rewrite

The Kovalchuk drama is over, a compromise has been reached, and once again there is peace, and we can think about hockey’s on-ice moments.

Still, that ignores what really went on here, and why it still doesn’t make a whole deal of sense. Avoiding the headaches of opening full-on investigations into the now-grandfathered contracts falls into the realm of good sense, but not everything else. You’re still left wondering who Bettman was serving when he agreed to this, just as much as you’re wondering who Fehr (or whomever really was or was not running or not running the NHLPA when the agreement was made) was serving.

It was actually a peculiar bust of a moment for a storyline that’s kept us watching the papers and trolling the web for the whole off-season.

Forget for a moment the questions of how this will shake out in detail in new CBA negotiations, or what exactly qualifies as “long term” when Darren Dreger spells out the rules for us to let us know when they kick in for the over-35 set.

Actually, think for a moment about Dreger’s own closing statements from that article:

These new rules will only apply to contracts negotiated and filed after Sept. 3. They do not apply retroactively to existing contracts, therefore long-term deals signed by the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Rick DiPietro would remain unaffected by Friday’s decision.

Zetterberg’s final season sees him turn 40, and his salary never dips below $1 million; Rick DiPietro will be done a year younger, at 39, and his salaries for age 36 through 39 are, well, the exact same $4.5 million he’ll have been receiving annually since the 2006-07 season; both “would remain unaffected,” with or without the exception to Friday’s decision.

Franzen, like Zetterberg, also fails to go past age 40 or dip below $1 million. Savard would have his two final seasons adding an extra $950K, but over seven years, that’s only about a $135K increase in his cap hit. So, really, what does this deal do? It stops anyone from going further, but many of the contracts the League called into question would have been beaten up as much as a thrashing by Mr. Burns.

Considering players who sign deals after turning 35 can’t have their cap hits removed, wouldn’t it make sense for players whose contracts extend into that territory also be a permanent fixture on the books? Those over-35 contracts also get one shot at being bonus-laden; might it not make sense to have the “bonus” of deals extending beyond that age forced to pay a salary of the pre-36 years average, so that no early retirement would reveal the contract to be a cap sham, the way that an early Kovalchuk retirement would reveal nearly a decade of cap evasion, to the tune of nearly $30 million in “free” space?

Consider for a minute how many players GMs could potentially even ever want to sign to these deals, or have the team financial wherewithal to consummate, and wonder as Bettman sides with that small minority of the full 30 franchises he’s supposed to represent.

Consider for a second how many players could benefit from these now-forbidden contracts, compared to how many feel the pain when the few high-salaried players squeeze out the many serviceable vets in favour of relatively “pennies” cheaper but often still too green rookies. Well over half of the NHL’s players make just a dime and a nickel for every Kovalchuk dollar. Three quarters of them have just one or two years on their deal, compared to the 15 for Kovalchuk. Whose best interests are being served by Fehr or whomever else signed on the dotted line for the NHLPA.

Really, who is being properly advocated for, properly represented?

There may be more than a few players and owners, come time for new CBA negotiation, who find that they have more in common with each other than their small groups of compatriots who seem to get more than their fair share of the wheeler-and-dealer’s time.

Filed in: NHL News, NHL Rules, | SENShobo | Permalink


Nathan's avatar

I don’t think it was your agenda, but this post lists a lot of good reasons to get rid of the cap and let the market determine what players are worth again.

The cap is squeezing out the NHLs “middle class” veterans—players that would likely find decent pay checks if certain clubs had the ability under the CBA to sign them.

Bottom line—I guess it isn’t really even about a cap or no cap, revenue sharing or no revenue sharing. What it really boils down to is the fact that the NHL is vastly overextended, trying to reach markets and homes that have no interest in the sport.

The NHL expanded, thus creating this problem, and rather than contracting to a manageable size, they’re trying to put other band-aids on it. It’s funny… makes you wonder if the NHL intentionally created this problem so they could try to “fix” it.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 09/05/10 at 01:06 PM ET

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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net