Thursday, September 2, 2010

The NHL's hypothetical ultimatum would hypothetically benefit players

Before we get into anything, here's a solution for calculating a salary cap hit for long term deals: Instead of averaging out the salary over the course of the deal, simply rank the years in salary by descending order and apply that salary to the cap hit, so it drops throughout the deal.

By now, you're probably aware of the New York Post's Larry Brooks' report which offers that the NHL has given an ultimatum to the NHLPA over long contracts.

Brooks writes:

The Post has learned that Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly informed the still-leaderless and obviously rudderless NHLPA by e-mail late last night that the league would grandfather the recently re-submitted Kovalchuk 15-year, $100 million contract into the collective bargaining agreement, as well as Luongo's year-old, 12-year, $64 million contract and Hossa's year-old 12-year, $63.3 million contract, under the following conditions:

1. That the cap hit on future multiyear contracts will not count any season that ends with the player over 40 years of age. The cap hit would be based on the average salary of the seasons in the contract up to age 40.

2. That the cap hit on future contracts longer than five years would be calculated by granting additional weight -- perhaps the average -- to the five consecutive years with the largest average salary.

How much of a different do those years after age 40 make? If Roberto Luongo's contract were held to that standard, his $5.33 million cap hit would become a $6.71 million cap hit. Marian Hossa's contract with Chicago would jump from a $5.23 million hit to $6.7.

However, this is the New York Post, so there may never have been an ultimatum. Eklund killjoy Darren Dreger has already done the legwork to discredit Brooks. As much as long-term contracts are completely cheating and against the intent of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the solution to the front-loaded contract mess lies behind a simple solution that NHL executives craft up to strongarm the Players Association. I just don't buy that the PA is as adamant as the Brooks report makes them out to be over front-loaded contracts.

Front-loaded contracts are a way for teams to spend way more money on superstar players than they have to spend on your average blue collar NHL player. For every Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, Roberto Luongo, Daniel Briere or Chris Pronger, there are fifty Daniel Pailles or Zenon Konopkas, who already stand to lose a significant chunk of their paycheques due to escrow, so that their teams have the money to pay the longer-term contracts.

If this is the battle that new NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr wants to take on, then he's already lost the mostly apathetic player crowd. An NHL "win" in this case means that teams will have to dig harder to sign their biggest stars. Steven Stamkos is a free agent this summer, as is Zach Parise. And Shea Weber. Those three guys are so important for their hockey teams, particularly considering their markets. If anything, wouldn't the NHL *want* franchise players to stick with their teams? How is making long-term deals less workable at all beneficial to the National Hockey League?

From where I stand, the NHL may as well be asking that members of the NHLPA all play hockey or breathe oxygen. I get a sense that, if this strongarming is actually going down, that they look like the commander of the Imperial Star Fleet and Bettman is in charge of the weapons systems on the first Death Star. The entire scene is a useless argument, which is a plot device to let the filmmakers show us that Darth Vadar can choke people with his mind:

Hell, because of all this, the NHL may lose Ilya Kovalchuk to the Kontinental Hockey League.

We all love you, Brooksie, you make for great Youtube exchanges with John Tortorella, but I'm going to have to believe Darren Dreger on this one.

UPDATE: The Post is now reporting that the union are choosing to defer their vote to bring in Don Fehr anyway.

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