I thought the new CBA was
supposed to help small market teams that don't produce a lot
GOODENOW HEADS OFF INTO THE SUNSET
No major surprises. A couple
top ranked players dropped and a few teams made reaches. There
was only one signifigant trade and it was pretty much an expected
one by readers of Spector's Hockey, anyhow.
CBA SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED
Because we are going to see an absolutely crazy period of free agency and a draft that will see the latest phenom end up on a Pittsburgh team that could be one of the more dangerous squads around when the dust settles.
I'm not going to dwell on the CBA, because too much has already been said about it. The only care I have is that the long nightmare is officially over.
Now, I am calling my cable operator and getting the package.
THE DRAFT LOTTERY
Yeah it WAS boring. My team was out as soon as the first commercials ended. Still, I want to see the NHL have a lottery every year for the draft. Imagine, whipping up a frenzy, getting stars to do the annoucement of the selection order, maybe even having the hot music act du jour perfom.
The first issue was the way Gary Bettman handled the announcements. He sounded like he was reading a piece of junk mail out loud to his wife. There should have been pizzaz or at least a degree of noticeable excitement.
Secondly, don't interview John Ferguson jr and Bob Clarke. Get Jeremy Roenick up there, with Brendan Shanahan and Keith Tkachuk, give them a bunch of cocktails and have them analyze the picks. Have Esa Tikkanen pop up every thirty seconds or so to call JR a greedy prick-in Tikkanese!!!! Celebrate the "realness" of your stars!!!
In the tradition of the Stanley Cup, hold the lottery selection announcements in a nudie bar-Have the DJ handle the announcements-Here's the sexy Shayla wearing the jersey of the team with the 16th pick-the New York Rangers.
There's something else-only the NHL could rig the draft to give Sidney Crosby to the New York Rangers and blow it THAT BADLY!!!
Yeah the Pens will be exciting with their new wonderkind joining with established guys like Mario, Mark Recchi and maybe Alexei Kovalev, but imagine Crosby going to the Big Apple.
James Duthie had the best line when he said that Brian Burke is easily excitable-I only wish Burke had grabbed Duthie by the throat al a Homer Simpson, screaming. "Why you little...."
Anyhow, next come the individual team press conferences, and the storm of free agency, then me spending 36 straight hours trying to make all the moves on NHL06-and giving up by the time I get to the Maple Leafs.
So anyhow, Rock on, Stay Alert and be aware that pucks frequently leave the playing surface.
Most were pretty much expected, but one neat one was giving a delay of game to a defensive player that intentionally shoots the puck into the stands.
I love it. Guys were becoming specialists at lofting a puck into the third row-now it will severly cost them.
Finally, as Bob Clarke once said to a linesman, "Drop the bleeping thing!!! Nobody's paying money to see you drop a puck!!!"
When I saw on my cellphone yesterday that the NHL and NHLPA had reached an agreement in principle, I was ecstatic.
I was like Snoopy when Charlie Brown brought him supper.
I was like Homer Simpson when the beer truck overturned in front of his house and started flowing forth with free samples of the product.
I was like Jennifer Willbanks when she negotiated a paltry sum as restitution for her fake kidnapping, then turned around and got 10 times as much for her "story".
I even went so far as to call a sports talk radio station to let my rapture escape.
Then I awoke this morning and asked myself, Why aren't I totally pissed off?
I don't want to get into winners and losers, mainly because we don't actually know what the deal entails. But if the rumors are true, Gary Bettman and his hard liners dealt a major blow to the NHLPA.
I admit I was pro-union during the lockout-mainly because I saw the union offering concessions(such as the 24% rollback) and the league simply demanding cost certainty without any reason to accept(like younger free agency or refusal to even discuss a luxury tax).
But on the surface this is a deal that should have happened in February-at the latest. Gary Bettman "won" as soon as Bob Goodenow relented on a cap.
However-and this is all based on rumors and not facts-this is a blow to all the union members who were so steadfast behind Goodenow.
First off, not only did Bettman get a cap, but he got linkage. It's also less than the rumored league cap offer in February. In February the big sticking point was linkage, now it didn't matter?
Secondly, teams get arbitration rights as well as players. Guess what all you contract year studs! If you don't keep it up, that career year will have bought you one year of big money, because if you drop from 40 goals to 25, your GM will demand arbitration.
Next, the small markets(you know the guys in Nashville and Minnesota who have rock bottom payrolls and high end ticket prices) will now get revenue from the teams that market themselves well. So not only will the Maple Leafs, Avalanche and Flyers have to buy out key players that helped them to success, they'll have to send a check to Nashville to help them get to the payroll basement.
Finally, Bettman even got a cap on individual salaries!!! No player can make more than 20% of his individual team cap. Think that ain't going to stymie Goodenow's beloved free market.
So bottom line, in analyzing the rumors, Bettman bitch slapped Goodenow, took his lunch money and then got him to do his book report on "War and Peace".
The Hard-line owners got everything they wanted-including making sure the union lost it's claws and fangs. The only trade off they made is earlier UFA status, but in reality, with the 20% rule it's so limited that it was better for players when they could land a big payday at age 31.
I'll also be surprised if Bob Goodenow keeps his job as head of the PA. By the looks of things, he just became the NHL version of Richie Phillips.
So, the owners created the mess by giving huge deals to players, then locked the players out-causing massive damage to the league and inflicting pain on the fans and now they get a great new CBA.
I have to take my hat off to Gary Bettman. He got everything he wanted and only gave up something he was going to have to anyhow.
I have some issues with all of this, so in order to get this off my chest-and to avoid another feel good piece about an imminent CBA-here's my two suggestions for the 2005 NHL Rebirth Entry draft:
1. The most talked about hockey player during the lockout-at least for on ice exploits-has been Sidney Crosby. Why then, is the NHL willing to shove the drafting of the best prospect since Eric Lindros into a closet? Do something to get the draft some exposure-buy infomercial time on ESPN2, run a web broadcast, something. Publicize El Sid.
2. Use a lottery-no weights. Teams such as the New York Rangers, who missed the last playoffs and have a lot of wiggle room under the rumored cap, should not get more opportunities to land a high pick than a team like Colorado or Calgary, who are now being punished for winning.
To make a lottery conmpletely fair, the way I'd do it is to have a drawing of ping-pong balls. There'd be 30, one with each team's logo on it. Get a guy like Guy Lafleur to pick-a Hall of Famer with no signifigant ties to any team. Each team picks in the order selected(in case of picks traded then the team that holds the other's pick gets the spot), then reverse the order for the second round. For example, the team that picked 30th in the first round gets the top pick in round two.
After the second round, then have another drawing. The third round will be selected by the lottery, then reverse the order for the fourth round. Continue until the draft is completed. That gives each team a shot at the top pick in each round every second round. It also prevents teams from being able to have consecutive picks all day.
This year, I think it's imperative to simply make the playing field as level as possible. There's team who have four or five guys under contract for next year. There's simply no way to realistically say what the Boston Bruins are going to look like next season. There's no way to say with 100% certainty who will be bought out, or which team with room under the cap could lure a big name free agent or buy out casualty.
On a more long term scale, I'd love to see this(or something similar) adopted for every year's draft, because I don't think that the Stanley Cup winning team should get punished for winning the Cup. If true parity is the goal, then every year should have a straight drawing for draft position, with each team given an equal shot to land at number one. I also think this would make the trade deadline a lot more interesting-would a Bob Clarke or Pierre Lacroix trade a first rounder for a deadline addition who is only months from free agency if he knew it could turn out to be the top pick of the draft? That should appeal to those folks that want to see the deadline moved up and dislike salary dumps.
Here we are feeling all good and sunny and WHAM!!!! Jeremy Roenick decides to offer his opinion on the NHL's labor impasse.
Despite the manner in which it was presented, Roenick's comments weren't all that bad. He pointedly wondered when the fans would notch a "win" in the CBA negotiations. Yet all we've seen here in the US is JR telling fans to kiss his ass.
Roenick's comments were more directly an attack on the way the NHLPA has handled the negotiations, and were largely based on what he has heard. He's a veteran player, who has a great repuatation of being a fan friendly player. I agree with probably 90% of what the outspoken centerman said. However, I feel he did make three mistakes.
First, JR should know that he's a target of a media that will take statements out of context. The comment, "The players won in 1994(the first lockout), the owners are going to win now, but when does the fan win?" was absent from a lot of the news shows and asinine pundit shows that clog my sports dial here in the US. He's said in the past that sometimes there's no filter between his brain and mouth, and that's understandable. But you gotta learn from past errors, Stiles.
Second, he did toss a barb at fans who have been critical of the union. Everyone in the sport wants as many fans to come back as possible. Everything should be done to cater to the fans-giveaways, autograph sessions, bachelor auctions for puck bunnies-whatever.If somebody wants to pay for a seat, unless it's Osama bin Laden, then let him. The money from me or a person that thinks the players are spoiled pricks is the same color and accepted at all the same places.
Finally, the timing couldn't be worse. It still looks as if the lockout will end in the first weeks of July. For that to happen the NHLPA members will have to ratify the agreement. Hopefully, JR's comments won't rile the membership to reject the new CBA. Also, we should all wait until the deal is done before deciding on winners and losers. Most on both sides are getting the bulk of their info from the press, just like us average schlubs.
Even a Mario Lemieux can state his feelings, but unless he's been at the marathon sessions, how good is his grasp of the overall situation? Other owners like Ed Snider and Wayne Gretzky admit they haven't been deeply involved, as have the majority of players that have spoken.
Until the new deal is commited to paper and disemminated, nobody knows if it's a good deal or bad. Are there going to be loopholes that allow agressive GM's with big budgets to buy a good team? Will a $38 million cap help a team that struggles to maintain a $22 or $25 million basement? How restrictive is the luxury tax? What is going to be the end result buy out, free agency and rollback talks?
The bottom line-and my biggest disagreement with JR-is that until it's done, nobody can say whether it's good or bad. But it's a free country and expressing yourself is your right.
NOW THAT SUMMER IS HERE
Don't know about you guys, but the talk of the impending agreement has me really geeked about hockey. Despite the heat here on the lovely Jersey Shore-Exit Zero on the Garden State Parkway, I have actually been wearing my team sweaters.
Ok it's been mainly to bed, because I crank the AC up to the point where you can almost see your breath. But still, I am wearing the swag. I even played the video game last week, beating Belarus with Finland 4-1.
I have been busy with our new baby, which really helped my withdraw from NHL hockey. But lately I have been like the Tyrone Biggums character from the Dave Chappelle show. For those that aren't aware, he's a crack head that did a "Stay Off Drugs" speech at an elementary school-and told the kids how to score rocks. Anyhow, he's all about getting crack and I find myself checking ESPN on my cellphone at work and reading six different newspapers at lunch for any sniff of the NHL.
My wife said I am a hockey junkie. I really hate when I prove her right.
Flowing lately from the news and rumor vine has been optimism that the NHL's nearly year-long lockout is drawing to a close.
I happen to agree with the optimism for a few reasons:
1. The angry rhetoric is nowhere to be found. In the early stages of this dispute, every session ended with Bill Daly or Ted Saskin taking pot-shots at one another. A few owners and players occaisionally piped up to voice their disgust and displeasure with the other side.
Now, after nearly daily meetings, all we hear is "No Comment" or "Some progress was made".
It reminds me of the old days of the Cold War, when the US and USSR would meet. There'd be a lot of noise about how bad each side was, and how unfairly the negotiations went, but right before the signing, all was light and pleasant.
2. The NHL and players seem to be paying attention to moving ahead. Rumors of an entry draft being held everywhere from Ottawa, to a NY city hotel ballroom, to my cousin Zeke's ice fishing shack. Some guys saying they're staying in Europe. Others busting their asses to get back into game shape.
Further evidence is the just completed sale of the Anaheim franchise(please change the name to ANYTHING but "Mighty Ducks") and the hiring of ex Canucks GM Brian Burke to run the show. The reports that have Dale Tallon getting the GM job in Chicago(at least until Bill Wirtz gives it back to Bob Pulford). The rumored investors for the Penguins and the report that the St Louis Blues are for sale. All these occurences are signs that the No Ice Age is ending-and soon.
3. The NHL R&D camp. I take Gary Bettman to task...often. But the R&D camp was a great idea, even if the minds that came up with it cause me to shake with rage 98% of the rest of the time.
The bottom line in all this, really is, that the game got boring and casual fans lost interest. Everything short of full time four on four and bigger nets should be researched and I'd like to note that some of the things I have been calling for look to be the best solutions-Bringing back the tag-up rule for off-sides, harsher regulations of goalie equipment and more stringent enforcement of obstruction. Elimination the red line for two line passes is a workable idea as well.
Now for all those that say we need to look at goalie safety, I agree 150%. However, there has to be a line between protection and gear simply added to stop the puck. If we continue to allow guys to add four inches to their width, then allow the return of banana curves.
I don't like the idea of a shootout, because it's deciding the outcome of the game by artificial means. They don't decide basketball by a game of horse if it's tied at the end of one OT. My suggestion is to play a twenty minute, four on four OT-and make sure infractions get called. I'd also LOSE the point for a tie(or an OT loss), because then teams will play for a win and not a tie. I think a shootout at the end of five minutes is a bad idea-despite the fact that it is exciting as hell.
4. No media attention in the US. The NHL's best moments tend to come when the US isn't paying any attention.
My gut feeling is that the agreement is already completed(in principal)and being written and reviewed by each side. Once the language is committed to paper, there'll be a signing and announcement.
Mr Wagner had expressed an opinion defending Gary Bettman recently in the "Fans Speak Out" Section, so I'd like to rebutt some of what he wrote.
"Before I get into anything I want to say that I am not pro ownership or pro union. I will be defending Bettman but Im not saying he doesnt share the blame in the NHL's problems. The fact that the lockout was caused by the owners not being able to control spending puts part of the blame on Bettman. He is the boss and is ultimately responsible for the product but its not all his fault."
I don't think anyone blames Bettman 100%. I am one of his more vocal critics, but it's not completely his fault. However, Bettman's blame however lies in the root of the lockout.
That to me is the bottom line. In 1995, when the last CBA was hammered out, a lot of folks saw it as a victory for the owners. Free agency was limited, there was a rookie cap and the NHL seemed on the verge of getting more popular.
Instead, big market and well heeled teams found loopholes and exploited them more than Kathy Lee Gifford di to her Goddamned kids. That created a wider gap between the haves and have nots, which is ultimately the cause for the lockout.
"The on-ice product has suffered but to my knowledge Bettman doesnt require coaches to play the trap. Coaches must play a system that allows his team a chance to win. If a team has to play the trap then it should play the trap. The game, however, should not turn into a clutch and grab fest. I will say clutch and grab hockey is Bettmans fault. He is responsible for how the games are being called. Is over-expansion the cause to boring play? To an extent yes. I think the main problem is coaches and GMs preference of size and strength over speed and ability. Big players are perfect for slow moving clutch and grab hockey. Most people thought Martin St. Louis was too small to play in the league. Hes now a Hart Trophy and Art Ross winner. You have to wonder how many Martin St. Louis are out there that havent been given a chance because of their size. I think if we can get more smaller speedy players in the league the problem of boring play will correct itself. If speedy players are allowed to skate without being hooked and held then the trap cant work."
Here's why I blame Bettman for the state of the game: Too many teams for the talent pool. New teams couldn't compete with existing teams, so they employed clutch and grab tactics and the neutral zone trap. When other teams saw that they weren't getting called for obstruction, they started to play more trap enhanced systems.
Face it, why play fiirewagon hockey when the refs don't call the obstruction infractions?
That led to teams abandoning high tempo offenses and guys like Martin St Louis. By the way, I'd like to point out here that size has been an issue for the NHL since before Gary Bettman came along. There were always guys who were too small that probably would have been excellent players if given a chance.
Anyhow as the prime proponent of exansionism, Bettman gave these teams the green light-to make up for not getting a salary cap in 1994-then bent over backward so the new owners could ice compettive teams.
Basically, it's the primary example of Bettman's short sighted leadership.
"Lets get to the lockout. Ill take a lot of heat for this but I think the lock out and the cancellation of the season were good business moves. Whats the point of having another season of losing money and turning off the casual fan with boring play? There is no point. The NHL needed to get its house in order. You cant bleed money and turn fans off at the same time. The NHL could not afford to break under the pressure of the PA again. The linkage of revenues and salaries was a must and a salary cap was a must. With linkage the player now has to have the best interest of the NHL in mind. With linkage, his salary now depends on it. If the NHL is making money then so is he. People will say, "What about the loss of sponsorships." That can be turned into a positive for the league. The cancellation of the season will cause projected revenue to be lower due to the loss of sponsorships and fans, making the salary cap lower. This will help ensure financial stability while the NHL gets back on its feet. The NHL also needed this time to take a long look at fixing the on ice product and a better way to market and grow the game. This gives them the time to do that. For those of you that say that hockey is a regional niche sport and shouldnt venture out Canada and the northeastern US you are wrong. Look at NASCAR. (For the life of me I dont know how anyone can sit around and watch people driving cars in circles, and I live in the heart of NASCAR country.) 15 years ago this was just a bunch of drunk hillbillies in the southeastern part of the U.S. sitting around watching cars drive around. Now this "sport" is wildly popular due to successful marketing and promotion. The same can happen for the NHL. When the NHL returns it will be in a much better place. Canceling an entire season was evil but I believe it was a necessary evil."
The lockout was good business sense, for the small market guys like Peter Karmanos. But they still lost money. Worse, teams like Philadelphia, Detroit and New York lost money-even though they usually make millions per season.
Again, this is extremely short sighted thinking. It doesn't help that being the first league to lose a season to labor issues makes you a joke in the eyes of casual fans. It doesn't help that a lot of hardcore fans are totally pissed off because there was no Stanley Cup. It doesn't help that sponsors are leaving by the boatload, because now ad revenue and TV money won't be as much.
For that to impact the salary cap, you'd need the NHLPA to agree to it. Somehow, I doubt that will happen. The danger in a cap is that it could render the NHL to second class league status, because if a rival league can pay higher salaries, the best players will go there.
I just don't see the good business sense in losing all gate revenue, merchandize revenue, TV money, sponsor money and every other revenue stream-while pissing off the very customers the league needs to survive.
As for the NASCAR analogy, it raises a good point, but what could possibly make you think that Bettman is the man to lead the NHL Lazarus back from the dead? Under his watch the product has gotten worse, the teams less stable, the revenues lower and the fan interest drop to the point that the collective response of the US media to the cancellation of the season was, "So what?"
If Bettman hadn't allowed the league to get where it was today, it wouldn't need a miracle to save it and get it back above the X-Games and poker and NCAA softball in the minds of the US sports consumer.
IS THE END IN SIGHT?
ANATOMY OF A LABOR WAR
First of all, apologies to
all for the long abscence. No real details, just a lot of personal
In fact, I'll go a bit further. I'll tender one to you. A few weeks back I was a bit hard on you for comments you made this summer that made it seem as if you wanted to bail on your team. I, too was out of line. As a Flyer fan I welcome you back and look forward to the next season(hopefully we'll have one).
For those unaware, Roenick met and spoke with Flyers chairman Ed Snider, GM Bob Clarke and team captain Keith Primeau. He apologized to them, reiterated his desire to stay a Flyer and strove to ease any ill-will that he caused his team or teammates.
He took full responsibility for his comments and didn't blame the press for misquoting him or taking things out of context. He will co-operate with the Flyers on what road to take concerning his health, as he just finished a battery of tests in Montreal to determine his status.
Personally, I think that it took a lot of balls for Roenick to seek forgiveness and set things right. He also heaped a great deal of praise on Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock for defending him during the malestrom by saying that Roenick's injuries shouldn't be questioned and that he was a good soldier for the team in the playoffs.
I also think that Roenick's apology was accepted by both Clarke and Snider. Snider gushed about Roenick to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tim Panaccio and Clarke was the one guy who always said that Roenick would remain a Flyer.
So now, let's get this pesky little CBA mess out of the way and drop the puck!!
Just some random stuff I have observed over the past couple of weeks, because hey there ain't much else.....Bill Daly said it wouldn't be hard for players to take a 28% paycut. This from a guy who is getting a full paycheck during the lockout. Daly will check in from fantasy land on a weekly basis......Jeremy Roenick is in Montreal for two days of tests with neurologist Karen Johnston. She will be determining Roenick's future-and whether or not he can get paid during the lockout.....Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock says Roenick's health superceedes any issues between Roenick and his teammates over the controversial comments made by JR for most of the summer. team captain Keith Primeau admitted that some of the comments upset him, but added he hadn't spoken to Roenick abnd wasn't wading into the middle of this issue.....Dominik Hasek will play a rehab stint in the AHL, but won't confirm that he'll join the OSHL in Ontario.....The rush of NHLers heading to Europe to play continues. Those that aren't are hiring out rinks in their home cities and skating in groups. If your lucky or unemployed(and more and more are in the US) you could head down to your local skating arena and catch a glimpse of big names playing shinny.....It'll be interesting to see how a new CBA will be implemented-if one every happens.....TSN will be pushing their ideas for a way to get talks going. I have not seen them, however, I am excited to see what they have come up with. They should be available by Friday, October 1st at 7 PM EDT on tsn.ca......Next time out, I'll review the two NHL console video games out, from ESPN/SEGA and EA Sports and comment on the TSN plan.
THE LOCKOUT HAS ARRIVED
We certainly can't say we were blindsided. We have known for two years or more that we were facing armageddon, yet a lot of us believed or hoped that somehow it could be averted. Alas those were false hopes.
I hear a lot of blame being tossed at the players and NHLPA director Bob Goodenow. This is unfair. The players are not the ones spending like there's no tomorrow. The players are not the ones that shortsightedly expanded. Did they take advantage of it? Sure. But as Bill Guerin once said, "Would you turn down a $9 million a year contract?"
NHL commisioner Gary Bettman has failed the NHL, the players and especially the fans. He's now presided over two work stoppages. The first ended when owners realized they could gain hundreds of millions of dollars in expansion fees.
So now the league has six too many teams and the markets were simply the one who ponied up the cash first. Hardly the best criteria in determining who got in, but hey that's what Bettman did.
But this is not about past mistakes-at least not completely. This is about why the lockout has darkened the prospects for the NHL to resume.
The way I see things, the owners have created a mess and are asking the players to help. The NHLPA has offered fair and helpful concessions, yet the NHL demands total capitulation.
The NHL, led by Bettman, seems to feel that the only way to control themselves is to make it impossible to lose control. The owners won't feel the pinch in this case, but the players will.
Bettman accuses the union of not negotiating in good faith, yet the NHL still will not allow an independant audit of their books. They owners claim that they lost $270 million last year, but are unwilling to show the players how they lost so much.
To shed some light on NHL accounting practices, during the playoffs Philadelphia Flyers president Ron Ryan claimed the Flyers made money in 2003-04. Days later, team chairman Ed Snider claimed that the team LOST money. How can this be? Snider was probably refering to direct hockey monies, which might not take into account such money makers as luxury boxes and parking.
Now, I am not saying that the NHL is lying about how much money it lost, but they were able to build a lockout war chest of $300 million...perhaps that had something to do with the losses.
The bottom line is that if the just expired CBA was renewed the player would happily retake the ice. If the owners would agree to reasonable salary controls, instead of insane controls that are BELOW the median NHL payroll, then we wouldn't be scrambling to see how we could get European coverage and AHL games on TV.
Inspired by Brian Burke, who offered up a fifteen point plan to settle this mess-or at least open a dialog, I submit to you my own plan to get the ball rolling. There's a lot of blue-skying and not all of the points may be realistic due to labore laws and other factors of which I am blisfully unaware. Enjoy.
Point One: Salary threshold and penalties
The NHL Shall have a salary threshold between $30 million and $40 million in US funds per club.
Teams whose payrolls do not meet threshold requirements shall be fined based on the amount they are in violation.
For example, teams between $1 and $2,000,000 over or under the threshold shall be fined fifty cents per dollar.
Teams between $2,000,000.01 and $4,999,999.99 over or under shall be fined seventy-five cents per dollar.
Teams at $5,000,000 over or under will be fined on a dollar by dollar basis.
Point Two: Mercahndize Revenue
Merchandize revenues will be split between the NHL and NHLPA.
Point Three: Current Contract Rollback
All existing player contracts will be rolled back by five percent.
Point Four: Arbitration
The NHL will adopt a high/low system as in Major League baseball.
Players and teams will be able to initiate arbitration proceedings when a player is about to enter into restricted free agency.
Players may file only once every three years for arbitration and teams may not ask for arbitration more than once in the same three year period for an individual player.
All contracts awarded in arbitration will be for one season.
Contract buy out rates will be determined by an arbiter on a case by case basis. Rates can not exceed 75% of the remaining monies owed to the player over the life of the contract. The rate may also not be below 25% of the remaining monies owed the player.
Point Five: Free Agent Status and qualifying offers
Players will be eligible for unrestricted free agency on the 1st of July following their 27th birthday.
Qualifying offers to restricted free agents must be:
At least 905 of the expiring contract for players over 26 years of age.
At least 75% of the expiring contract for players under 26 years of age.
Failure to meet these minimums will result in early UFA status for the player involved.
Teams losing restricted free agents will be allowed to work out compensation. If no agreement is reached within one week, the compensation awarded will be decided by an arbitration hearing between the teams involved. The award will be based on the size of the offer signed by the player, past performance of the player, and future expected performance of the player. The maximum award is four first round draft choices or two roster players-or a combination of players or picks that does not exceed two first rounders and one roster player.
Point Six: "Two-way" Contracts
Players that are ineligible to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, either through NHL games played or age shall be ineligible for "Two way" contracts, that pay one rate for NHL roster players and a smaller rate for those on AHL or other league rosters.
Players over the two way eligibility threshold can have a buy out arbitration hearing initiated by the team or themselves.
Point Seven: Fines
Fines levied against players for disicplinary reasons will be split between a too be created NHL Area Partnership Fund and the NHLPA's pension plan. Funds in the APF will go to help teams with inadequate facilities get new buildings.
Fines levied against teams for payroll threshold infractions will be split between teams within the threshold, with teams at the low end of the threshold getting a higher percentage. All monies received for payroll threshold violations MUST be spent on hockey operations.
Point Eight: Ticket Cap
Tickets in the first level/tier for NHL regular season games will not exceed $65 US. For playoff games, these tickets will not exceed $85 US.
Tickets in the second level/tier for NHL regular season games will not exceed $40 US. For Playoff games, these tickets will not exceed $65 US.
All other no luxury box, suite and reserved tickets for regular season games shall cost no more than $25 US. For playoff games these tickets shall not exceed $40.
Jeremy Roenick had been my favorite hockey player for nearly fifteen years. I admired his grit, tenacity and skill level. I even liked his mouth, because agree or disagree, what came out of it was usually colorful and entertaining.
Well, that has passed. Roenick's had a tough summer. He's been recovering from a concussion and been the subject of a gambling probe. However, my biggest issue is his repeated comments about how happy he'd be to leave his current employer, the Philadelphia Flyers.
The first such instance occured during a Phoenix radio interview. Roenick blew it off as a joke between him and the host, who he called a "buddy". Ok, that can be excused, but it came a week after critical comments on the Flyers' off season-letting Mark Recchi leave, not re-signing Alex Zhamnov, the high likelyhood that both John LeClair and Tony Amonte will be bought out as soon as a new CBA is completed.
Roenick's vehement denials of wanting out and the breaking news of his spending over $100,000 on a gambling information service kind of pushed the comments to the back burner. Roenick also has not re-visited the comments during his entertaining stint as a commentator on ESPN's World Cup coverage.
However, just like most of the summer, JR's foot was in close proximity to his mouth and the two met again.
While in Chicago to sing "Take me out to the ball game" at a Cubs game, Roenick mentioned to the Chicago Sun that he'd heard rumors that he and Amonte would be dealt to the Blackhawks. When asked if he would welcome a return to Chicago, Roenick was very enthusiastic.
"Are you kidding me?'', the nine-time NHL All-Star said. "I've played in some great places, but this is still the fruit of my heart, if you want to say. This is where I had my best days as a hockey player. Hopefully, one day I can go into the Hall of Fame and wear a Hawks jersey. Yes, this is a place I would like to play again.''
Well, then I sincerly hope it happens. I have grown tired of the seemingly endless JR monologue about how wonderful it'd be to leave Philadelphia and as a Flyers fan I have one comment:
"Don't let the door hit you in the ass"
This is a guy that makes $7.5 million a year for twenty goals. He's a shadow of his former self and outside of a huge OT goal against the Maple Leafs in 2004 his playoff production has been underwhelming at best.
He's upset because guys like Recchi, LeClair and Amonte are gone or soon will be. Well Boo-freaking-Hoo. It's a business, JR, and the Flyers are not going to run the risk of giving guys like Recchi new deals when facing probable salary restrictions, especially considering that most are 34 or older and haven't exactly been productive in the post-season.
Despite some movemnet of second tier unrestricted free agents, the CBA situation is obviously affecting the market. Thus far, Matthew Barnaby, Ian Lapierre, Antii Laksonen, Jaroslav Modry and Turner Stevenson are the biggest names to change places, and only Modry and Knuble can expect to be top line players for their new teams.
In a normal year, teams would have been out knocking on doors, sending limos and charted planes to woo the top free agents. So far the only one who has a confirmed visit anywhere is 36 year old Mark Recchi who will meet with Pittsburgh next week.
That still leaves names like Ziggy Palffy, Eric Lindros, Pavol Demitra, Glen Murray, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Chris Chelios and Kevin Weekes out there for anyone to grab.
But as Flyers GM Bob Clarke says, refering to the Flyers decision not to offer Recchi a deal until after the new CBA is completed, " I mean, how do you put a price on a player now, not knowing what the rules are going to be?"
So many guys who would have been re-signed automatically a year or two ago, were either allowed to walk with only a token offer or none at all. Even restricted guys were not qualified-despite the importance to their teams-like Weekes and Demitra.
In other cases, deals that seemed all by announced, like Dominik Hasek landing in Ottawa, were not quite as close as believed.
The bottom line is that teams seem to be buckling down, and staying together on the issue of cost certainty. Depending on how things play out, the summer could get a lot more interesting, or even more uneventful.
To say with any certainty is foolish.
Well, Carl Lindros came out from behind his rock to slam Glen Sather for not trying to keep his oft-injured son.
Unfortunately, I feel little sympathy for Lindros, INC. This is just the same old sleaze that the Lindros clan has been perpetrating since Eric was 15 years old and his mother didn't want him to play for Sault Ste Marie.
Carl Lindros described the Rangers as "dysfunctional" and compared then to a "pee-wee team run by somebody's father". Well, Carl knows all about dysfunction and overbearing, interfering parents.
Although it's not all the fault of Carl and Bonnie Lindros. Eric Lindros is a 31 year old man, who has never seen fit to cut the apron strings. It's time for him to say to his parents something along the lines of , "Back off. I am not a kid anymore, and it's embarassing that I can't make my own decisions. It's also hugely embarassing when the only person making noise is my father/agent."
But he hasn't and probably won't. It also doesn't help that Lindros doesn't seem to give 100% in every game he's played, and that he gets injured more often than a member of the 101st Airbourne division when they dropped into Fortress Europe on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. The simple fact of the matter is that Lindros' oversensitive parents never allowed any rifts to be healed and Eric never lifted a finger to stop them.
Grow up Eric and tell your dad where to head in. It's long overdue.
Despite the uncertainty over next season, several teams have begun to get ready for whenever it begins. Some interesting moves have been made and here's a look at them-and what some of the ramifications could be.
Carolina traded Arturs Irbe to Columbus, then swung a deal to land Anaheim back-up Martin Gerber. Gerber is likely to supplant pending free agent Kevin Weekes as the Hurricanes starter. He pushed Jean-Sebastien Giguere last year, and if it weren't for Giggy's big contract, probably would be the starter at the Pond.
So let's start the speculation as to where Weekes will land-and the manner in which he does. First off, Carolina could very simply not tender the goalie a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. The reason this could happen is that if he's qualified, the 'Canes would have to work out a deal-and I doubt they could get full value for Weekes, who still has battles with consistency.
However, not qualifying Weekes would bring the team no return whatsoever. Even a draft pick or two is better than a big bag o nothing.
As for destinations, I think the front runners would have to be Toronto or St Louis-with astrisks in both cases. If Toronto can re-sign Ed Belfour, which so far has been a somewhat surprisingly drawn out effort, then Weekes obviously won't land at the Air Canada Centre. St Louis may decide to hang onto Chris Osgood, which would make Weekes an expensive luxury that the Blues-who say they want to lower the payroll-can't afford.
Other teams that may have interest in Weekes are Vancouver, Ottawa(should Dominik Hasek go elsewhere) and Chicago.
The other interesting speculation on Tobacco Road, surrounds a guy that would have been dealt at the deadline, had he not been injured. Jeff O'Neill is another pending free agent that must be qualified. He is coming off a horrid season, but at 28 can certainly bounce back. He's a talented forward who has a mean streak.
I think one team that might be interested in O'Neill is Philadelphia, who is trying to re-sign Alexei Zhamnov. If that happens there's a huge logjam at center with established NHLers Keith Primeau, Jeremy Roenick, Michal Handzus and Zhamnov, with youngsters like Jeff Carter, Patrick Sharp, Mike Richards and RJ Umberger vying for four spots.
That could lead to Flyers' GM Bob Clarke offering Handzus in a package to land O'Neill. The deal makes perfect sense. The Flyers need a right-handed shot, and Handzus would be a spare part in Philly's mix. Of course, if it makes that much sense, it probably won't happen.
Other happenings in Flyer land are the re-signing of Primeau and adding rookie free agent Umberger, who was drafted by Vancouver in the first round a few years back. The Flyers also may manage to keep versitile winger Sami Kapanen, who told teammates he was going to retire. In recent conversations with Primeau, Kapanen seems to have "softened" his stance on retirement.
Keeping Kapanen would allow the Flyers to not worry about filling a big hole on their wing and PK units. The Flyers goalies, Robert Esche and Sean Burke also activated player options in their deals to stay in Philly, although Burke will likely be dealt or bought out to clear a path for Finnish rookie Antero Niittymaki.
The Stanley Cup champion Tamap Bay Lightning picked up goalie Nikolai Khabibulin's option, which of course ignited trade rumors. Ok, I am kidding. Does everyone believe Jay Feaster now? Feaster has a busy summer ahead of him, with several key pieces of his championship team eleigible for free agency, most notably Martin St Louis.
The Bolts should expect their payroll to increase by about $10-15 million if they retain all their free agents.
Finally, Detroit is keeping Dave Lewis as coach and not bothering to offer Brett Hull a contract. Hull's name keeps popping up in Dallas and St Louis, although he's said he would jump to the new WHA if there's a stoppage. Brendan Shanahan may also be leaving Motown, as the Red Wings face new economic realities.
One contract they won't have to worry about is that of Hasek, who is publicly stumping to go to Ottawa. St Louis is also reportedly interested, but again, the Blues say they want to get younger and cheaper.
This is the first in a series of me predicting/hoping what will happen in the future of the National Hockey League.
Well it's no secret that the current CBA has been a disaster for the NHL. The league has no cost certainty and the gap between rich and poor is growing larger every day.
I think the NHL needs a salary cap of $35 million. Far too many teams are losing money with payrolls of $35 million and less. This may cause the big spenders to have to scramble, but they are the ones that ran up the cost of operating an NHL team.
The first step is securing a cap of any size from the NHLPA. The owners are going to have to make serious sacrifices to achieve this. I think a combination of granting UFA status to 25 year olds, eliminating two-way contracts, instituting a salary basement and a generous profit sharing plan with the NHLPA and it's members should help greatly.
Once a cap is instituted, I think teams should get a period of two weeks to get in compliance with it. Big spending teams have been told for YEARS by Gary Bettman to cut their payrolls. Every casual hockey fan knew that the CBA negotiations were going to be knock down and drag out, so the management of teams like Philadelphia, Detroit and New Yorks should have known, as well.
In another sop to the union, allow buy-outs of existing contracts to get under cap compliance-but only at 2/3rds of the contract's remaining value. No negotiation should be allowed and the full payment must be made in one calendar year. I think if that is the case the union's members are going to be happy depositing their large checks and gaining status as unrestricted free agents, to boot.
Is this a bit harsh to the teams that have the financial wherewithal to sign those big contracts? Perhaps, but I didn't see the Flyers worrying about the Lightning when they offered Chris Gratton a contract that the Bolts had no chance of matching in 1997. I didn't see a lot of concern when Bob Clarke shipped a bag of magic beans to Phoenix for Tony Amonte. I certainly didn't see Glen Sather shed any tears when he purchased Alexei Kovalev from the nearly bankrupt Penguins.
Well, I am not shedding any tears at teams that simply throw their checkbook at problems and don't have to worry when a big signing blows up in their faces.
Too often we've seen a team catch lightning in a bottle for one year, then fall off the face of the Earth. Teams can't sustain good runs, because with success on the ice comes a desire to have more money off the ice. Now the mistakes of the Rangers affect other teams, too, because in negotiations agents bring up the contracts of similar players around the league. If a comparable guy is overpaid by the Rangers, Red Wings or Flyers an agent is going to argue that his guy is worth just as much.
Then teams have to either pay through the nose or suffer a holdout-and maybe even a trade of key players over money. There HAS to be a level playing field.
It's unrealistic to suggest that teams will fold because of the work stoppage. Neither side wants that. The NHL will suffer a huge PR black eye and folding teams hurt the rest of the league in terms of revenue and prestige. A league that is folding teams will be seen as a bush league.
The NHLPA would lose precious jobs and members if teams folded. That's the last thing they want and they'll fight folding teams tooth and nail.
|The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material in Along the Boards copyrighted (C) 2004 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author or Spector's Hockey is prohibited.|