The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/10/11 at 08:24 AM ET
As far as the New York Post’s Larry Brooks is concerned, the NHL very happily witnessed its small-market teams spending money like it was on fire this summer very specifically because it plans to use “small-market insanity” as evidence to bolster its case that the salary cap should be rolled back, front-loaded contracts should be all but banned and the players’ share of revenues are “getting out of hand” and must be reduced (never mind that it’s Gary Bettman’s high cap floor and narrow payroll range that’s thrown the wrench into the sanity proceedings) during the next round of CBA negotiations:
The league opened the door with every intention of slamming it shut next time around and of hoisting the front-loaders on their own gold-plated petards. Bettman and his canny legal team, with aid from unwitting allies or dupes in the NHL Players’ Association office who never once consulted with Kovalchuk before authorizing a collective bargaining agreement amendment in his name, created a perfect storm in which small-minded small-marketers, their uninformed mouthpieces in the media and the GM of the Maple Leafs spent the week throwing around the term, “circumvention,” contrary to the facts.
Forget the nine-year deals both Richards and Bryzgalov signed. The Kovalchuk Amendment not only allows, but encourages an 18-year front-loaded deal for a 21-year-old coming off Entry Level, under which nearly all of the money is packed into the first 10 years as long as the final nine seasons are established at $1M apiece.
That’s the formula that would get Steven Stamkos on an offer sheet. That’s the formula that would get Drew Doughty. That’s the formula (though adjusted for a 13-year deal running through age 40) that most assuredly would have gotten Zach Parise, which is exactly why the Devils filed for salary arbitration and thus removed the winger from the market.
Anyone who thinks this week caught the NHL by surprise is kidding himself or herself. 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 $4M-$6M. 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. And the calling card, as if one is required in an era where owners in every sport except baseball are in complete command of the labor landscape, will be last week.
The league put out the bait. The Rangers and the Flyers (and the Sabres, who may be a small market team by definition, but have an owner with a big market mentality) took it, as well they should have. Sixth Avenue couldn’t be more gratified.
If the NHL chooses to “save” itself from its general managers by further screwing around with the payroll range, nothing will change for the better as long as the cap’s determined by league-wide revenues. The floor won’t drop and teams will continue to overspend despite Bettman’s further attempts to reach “blessed parity.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.