Wednesday, August 03, 2005

New CBA, basically the same ol' NHL

I feel very stupid this afternoon. Stupid for allowing myself to think it would be different now. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It was assumed by talking heads, almost unanimously, that in this new NHL world, salaries would plummet. In fact, many pundits figured that those who were already under contract and got hit with the 24% rollback were the lucky ones. Or as lucky as one can be when their paycheck gets reduced by 1/4th.

Those 200 or so unrestricted free agents would be the ones taking the hit, they said. Figuring that GMs would not know what to do with themselves when given a strict, hard, $39 million salary cap, it was thought that they would err on the side of caution, proceed nervously, and the offers on the table for the players would be significant in their

But it hasn't exactly gone down like that.

Looking at those who've been signed in the past 48ish hours since the market's been open, you'd see that there has not been the anticipated lack of millions thrown around. In fact, it's been quite the contrary. GMs, operating in a strange brave new world foreign to them, have reverted back to their old tendencies, and players are getting contracts that seem quite excessive and not at all given out with a salary cap in mind.

Almost every contract signed has been identical to what they would've made had they been UFAs in the 2002 summer, down maybe a million. Markus Naslund would get $7 million instead of $6, Adrian Aucoin might get $4.5 or $5 million instead of $4, Gary Roberts might get $3 million instead of $2.25 million, Martin Straka $4 million instead of the $3 he did. That's a big difference to you and I, sure, but anywhere close to what we expected and what was promised in this "new NHL"?

There have been some notable exceptions. Darren McCarty ($800,000) and Tony Amonte ($1.6 million) taking big pay cuts to play for the Calgary Flames, a move that will make them the envy of the rest of the league, shows a ideological shift on both the players and the team's part.

But, for every deal like that, you have Marek Malik, a slow, sluggish defenceman, getting $2.5 million a year from the Rangers, which hasn't exactly gone over well with fans of his former team the Canucks. You have Mike Rathje, a solid, reliable defenceman, but certainly not any kind of all-star, getting $3.5 million from the Flyers. Two instances of players not only not taking much less, but being overpaid.
And all it takes is a few teams to overpay someone and the whole system, based on comparables, becomes out of whack.

Some might point to Bobby Holik getting $4.5 million instead of the $9 mil from the aforementioned idiotic Rangers gave him three summers ago as proof we live in a new NHL financially. Unfortunately, at $4.5 million, he's still vastly overpaid for what he brings to the table, and I actually think that he would've gotten more had he not had the extra cash from being bought him. As scary as it is to say, I believe that if he was a UFA from the start, he'd be getting Markus Naslund money.

As I said yesterday, I hope that in two or three seasons, when we're back where we started, it's not the players and their evil agents who are forced to shoulder the blame. Again. When players going into arbitration are able to command big money because of the fact a few teams in the league overspent, and thus, everyone else in the league has to to keep their players at that price.

If anything has changed, maybe it's that now the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, two teams that were notorious for the fact they had to trade away their stars because they couldn't afford them, are able to overspend with the best of them. Somehow, I doubt the fans of those clubs will be screaming the same things they were two years ago about players getting too much money. It's okay when players get too much money to come to their team, I'm certain they'll rationalize.

I always thought that the CBA was needed to save the owners from themselves, but without it, they'd go nuts and blow their financial brains out. We're now seeing that even that system can't even stop the inevitable reality: owners are stupid.

5 Comments:

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

Well, I think it's more even than before since the Rangers, Avs, Stars, and Blues won't be able to spend fifty to sixty million per year. Is Edmonton stupid for signing Pronger for that amount of cash? Probably, but at least they have a star now; albeit an injured one. (I live in Montreal and will enjoy the late-night games now that the Canadian West teams look a bit better, and maybe the Canadiens will also look better in coming years.)

There's no perfection in life, but I'm happy the rules have changed a little, and we'll see where the NHL goes in six years.

Take care, and thanks for a detailed post.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

You're right in that they won't be able to overspend on everyone, thus creating $70 million payrolls.

But

It doesn't seem like anyone has learned their lessons, and when they have five roster spots to fill with only $2 million to spend, they're going to say "Oh, this cap system isn't working"

Free agency is based on comparables, and what similar players are getting.

Like someone else said, if Marek Malik is getting $2.5 million, then what is Zdeno Chara going to get next year?

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Phil said...

I would pay Chara a decent chunk of change, but that's besides the point. The point is, GM's are making some bad moves early. But the money is going to run out real soon and real fast, and then salaries will drop, especially on middle of the road players.

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

What's going to happen if we get a $34 million salary cap next year? Because that's very likely given we really don't know how the game is going to respond in the U.S., where ultimately the money is made.

It's quite possible revenues will drop.

What then? More buyouts, this time at full price?

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Dominic Plouffe said...

I think you're missing the point of the salary cap. The players, who are the game, deserve whatever money they can get. The money that is being given will be going to the players, no matter what.

Under the terms of the new CBA, players are entitled to 54% of league revenues. Owners have no choice but to spend approximately 54% of their renenues (max of 39mil) on players.

What I do like about the new CBA is that it allows for teams, like edmonton, calgary, montreal, etc. to be competitive again. They could probably always compete in a 39mil market, but not a 70mil market. That's the reason why they never signed any players. If you give Pronger a 8mil/year deal, you have to give one to Jason Smith, Ryan Smyth, etc... Under this cap....

 

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