I have to admit, when the news came on Thursday that Bob Goodenow as stepping down as Executive Director of the NHLPA, I was surprised.
Not shocked, but surprised.
We've heard rumours for weeks now that Goodenow might step down, and I'd acknowledged the possibility more than once here in this space and in my Foxsports.com columns.
Still, it seemed out of character for the combative Goodenow to quit, to step aside just because the players opted for a different course of action than the one he'd originally charted on their behalf.
There will be the usual speculation as to whether he went of his own free will or was pushed, and those in the press who didn't like the man will undoubtedly be giving him one more kick before he's out the door.
Granted, the man wasn't perfect. He misjudged the resolve of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the team owners this time around. He was about as media friendly as a water moccasin, and he wasn't exactly at the forefront for player safety.
There were complaints that he held too much control over the certification of player agents, and dark questions over his relationship with the controversial David Frost, the agent for now-jailed former player Mike Danton.
Over time, hopefully, someone will get the full, unbiased details as to what really happened behind the scenes at the NHLPA throughout the lockout. I've attempted to piece it together as best I could, based on media reports from PA friendly scribes as well as my own contacts within the organization itself.
There will be those who'll continue to claim that Goodenow misled the players, that he bullied and browbeat them toward certain defeat as this new CBA makes apparent, and that most of the NHL's woes can be laid at his feet.
That of course is BS on a stick.
Goodenow didn't take the players anywhere other than where they wanted to go. According to reports, internal polling of the PA membership prior to the lockout found over 80% of them were willing to sacrifice two seasons to get a deal without a hard cap or linkage.
Indeed, Goodenow forewarned the players well before the lockout that it could take that long, and to get their financial affairs in order because it would be a long, bitter battle.
None of them can proclaim with a straight face they didn't know this going in. The facts speak for themselves.
Goodenow and the players also knew they had to give back in this CBA, hence the 24 percent rollback, the offer for a luxury tax system which they'd previously rejected, as well as offers of lowering entry level salaries, closing off bonus loopholes and changing the arbitration system throughout the lockout.
The problem, as it's now clear, is the players really didn't believe they'd actually risk losing a season, let alone two. That's what led to the change of heart by the players executive in Pebble Beach in March.
This current CBA wasn't Goodenow's idea, but as my PA source informed me, he was determined to go out and get them the best cap-linkage deal he could.
Those who'll slam Goodenow for being a terrible leader will gloss over everything he's done for the players since he took over as NHLPA executive director.
Some claim now the PA is in disarray, yet things were in much worse shape when Goodenow took over from Alan Eagleson in the early 1990s.
Back then, Eagleson used to make sweetheart deals with the owners to ensure player salaries were kept artificially low, as well as plundered their pension and insurance funds for his personal gain.
Goodenow took over a PA that was distrustful of it's leadership and torn between Eagleson supporters and a growing number of dissidents.
He unified and organized the the players, and tirelessly proved that he was going to work for them.
Everything he accomplished has been well documented elsewhere. Suffice to say, under his tenure as NHLPA Executive Director, NHL players saw the greatest increase in their salaries in league history.
Those players who criticize him the most- Jeremy Roenick, Manny Legace, Steve Avery - all owe the salaries they have today, before and after a 24 percent rollback, to Bob Goodenow.
And unlike Eagleson, he never betrayed their trust. He did what they wanted him to do, fight hard on their behalf, and he did that well for fifteen years.
Despite the fallout from this lockout, NHL players today are in much better shape, both financially and as an association, at Goodenow's departure than their predecessors were when he took over. They'll recover quickly from the fallout of this lockout.
Those who claim the players suffered total defeat with this CBA had best remember Goodenow's statement during last week's press conference announcing the players ratification of the deal, that as with the last CBA it would take a couple of years to determine just how it'll play out.
Should it play out more in the players favour than the critics realize, and there's plenty of points within this deal to suggest it could, that could be Goodenow's parting gift to the players.
It would be a big mistake for the league and the owners to believe that Goodenow's replacement, Ted Saskin, won't be as difficult to deal with as his predecessor.
Saskin was and is every bit a tough negotiator as Goodenow or Bill Daly or Gary Bettman. He might be less combative and more media savvy than Goodenow, but he'll be no pushover.
The owners can crow about achieving total victory now that Goodenow is gone, but this comes with a price: they won't have him to pin the blame on for their excesses if this CBA doesn't work out.
Indeed, they'll have no more excuses. They claimed they needed a hard cap tied to linkage for the NHL's survival, and they got it. They blamed Goodenow rather than themselves for salary escalation, and now he's gone.
So if their cost certainty doesn't work out and once again teams are struggling to make do and salaries remain too expensive and fans aren't coming out as much, there won't be Boogeyman Bob to blame this time. Now, they'll have to face up to their collective foibles rather than pin them on a scapegoat.
Players paid their true worth. Full salary disclosure. A generous free agent and arbitration system. Increased revenue sharing. A cap system that could increase with revenues. A better organized and educated players association.
That is the lasting legacy of Bob Goodenow, and every NHL player with an NHL contract owes him a huge debt of gratitude, one they better remember every time they cash their paycheques, or their insurance cheques, or their pension cheques.
Expect to that comment from more than a few hockey fans when the 2005-06 NHL season starts up in October.
With nearly half of all NHL players available via free agency (in various forms) come next month, a lot of rosters are going to look very different from the way they were at the close of the 2003-04 season.
Start with the traditional big market clubs. The New York Rangers, for example, only have six players under contract as of this writing. If they cut loose Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis as expected, they'll only have four NHL players under contract.
Factor in the over $10 million those two would free up if bought out, and the fact that the Blueshirts are only on the hook for half of Jaromir Jagr's salary (roughly $4.2 million) and suddenly the Rangers have over $30 million of cap space available to re-stock their roster.
But what will their team look like? Will they follow through with their much-touted rebuilding programme, going with affordable youth? Or will the temptation to wallow in a very deep UFA mudhole prove irresistible to owner Jim Dolan and GM Glen Sather?
Either way, this won't be the same Rangers squad that stumbled out of the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season in 2004.
Meanwhile, there's the Toronto Maple Leafs, sure to part ways with Owen Nolan in a messy contract buyout but still leaving their fans wondering if they'll re-sign aging vets like Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts or pursue big ticket guys like Scott Niedermayer and Peter Forsberg.
Given that after buying out Nolan they'll only have 7 players under contract and need to re-sign their RFAs with $22 million already tied up, one has to wonder where the Leafs will get the green to go trolling for UFA talent.
These are of course but two examples, as the rest of the NHL's big market clubs will have to deal with either finding cap space, like the Maple Leafs, or filling it up, like the Rangers.
But this isn't solely a problem facing big market clubs. Mid-markets like the Calgary Flames, who have roughly half their rosters filled and enough room to fill out the rest, still have to make some key decisions.
Do they focus on re-signing their key players and then perhaps look to flesh out what few holes remain with a quality UFA signing or two? Or do they put more focus instead on the free agent market and cut loose any underachievers?
In the Flames case, it's pretty straightforward. They've budgeted themselves around $30 million for payroll this coming season and have already committed nearly $13 million, leaving themselves roughly $17 million to play with.
With key RFAs like Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Daymond Langkow, Jordan Leopold and Steven Reinprecht, it seems obvious they'll seek to lock up these and other RFAs first before turning their eye if necessary toward the UFA market.
Other clubs, however, may not have that kind of homegrown depth and may have to look instead toward the UFA market for help.
Then there's the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, faced with having to re-sign five key players (Nikolai Khabibulin, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko) as well as considering if they have enough cap space to re-sign veteran leaders Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor.
With only 9 players committed to salary at over $15.7 million, that's not going to leave a lot of space available for the Bolts to retain everybody. Depending on their salary demands, one or more of those players might have to go.
Chopping St. Louis and Lecavalier is not going to happen. Boyle is the kind of rushing defenceman most teams dream of having, while Fedotenko shows promise as a strong two-way forward, the kind that creates havoc on opponents during playoff time.
That might leave Khabibulin on the outside, but even if they opt to pass on the "Bulin Wall", that still leaves plenty of gaps to be filled and, depending on how much the Bolts are prepared to spend, possibly not very much left to do it with.
Fans of some teams have heightened expectations as to how much their teams will spend and which players they'll spend it on.
In Pittsburgh, for example, there's talk of Alex Kovalev, Martin Straka and even Jaromir Jagr returning to the Pens. Others speak of Alexei Zhamnov or even Scott Niedermayer signing.
But what the Pens have already committed to contracts (only $5.4 million as of this writing) and how much they'll actually spend (believed to be between $16 million - $20 million) and on what players remains to be seen.
Some teams may fulfil their fans wishes of bringing in top name UFA players, whilst others could end up dashing their hopes by pursuing their previous methods of building and maintaining their clubs.
By the start of the season, almost every roster will have undergone changes, some minor, some major.
How those changes affect the performances of those clubs will make for a very interesting season. We could well see the rise of clubs previously considered perennial doormats or the fall of teams long considered perennial Cup contenders.
Which means, for various reasons, fans will be wondering, "What happened to my team?"
The future NHL destination of top-rated Junior phenom Sidney Crosby was determined this past Friday when the draft lottery sent the rights to the first overall pick in this year's draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Some may argue Pittsburgh isn't the best destination for the supposed "Next One" to begin his NHL career, that it would've been better overall for the league's visibility and better for Crosby's future endorsement deals if he'd landed in a big market city like New York or Toronto.
I always found that argument to be ludicrous. If it's better for the league's best players to play in the league's biggest markets, then what's the point of having franchises in Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and other supposed small market cities? The league might as well end the charade, fold those teams and reduce the size of the league in half thereby ensuring only the best players play in the biggest markets.
If Crosby turns out to be as big as star as projected, if he is indeed the biggest thing to come out of Junior hockey since Mario Lemieux, it really won't matter where he plays.
Remember, Pittsburgh was considered as much a hockey backwater back in 1984 when the Pens drafted Lemieux as it is today. The same gloom hung over the franchise then as now as it was expected it would be folded or relocated.
Lemieux not only saved the Penguins, he turned them into a hockey powerhouse that dominated the league in the early 1990s, winning two consecutive Stanley Cups.
That made the Pens one of the most popular clubs in the NHL at that time. I recall in the early 90s their merchandise was everywhere. Penguins jerseys with "66" and "Lemieux" stencilled on the back (and to a lesser degree, "68" and "Jagr") were all the rage in Canada from Victoria to Calgary to St. John's. I know because I lived in those cities during that time frame and saw it with my own eyes.
The Pens were a hot ticket whenever they came to NHL cities, and they always sold out their arena.
Alas, some questionable ownership decisions would result in the fall of the Penguins franchise by the late -90s, to the point where each season they were forced to trade away their best players for passels of draft picks and prospects.
Ultimately the club would file for bankruptcy and Lemieux would return to save the franchise again, both as an owner and then lacing them up to play again following a three year retirement.
But Lemieux is now a fading star and even his presence can no longer sell out the building or bring excitement back to the Penguins. Even with a new CBA designed to supposedly save struggling small market franchises like the Penguins, they still needed another on-ice saviour to generate the buzz needed.
By landing Crosby, the Penguins may have that saviour.
For one thing, he'll rejuvenate Lemieux, who's obviously excited over the prospect of tutoring this great prodigy.
If the Pens can then buy out the Russian contract of their first round pick (second overall) of 2004, Evgeny Malkin, that could further bolster the Pens offensive attack. Malkin might be even more keen to play for Pittsburgh now that Crosby is sure to be there.
His presence could help generate more excitement about the Penguins, which should only boster their gate revenues. Penguins fans are faithful, but given the apparent selling off of assets in recent years, that faith has been tested.
Now, many of those fans will have good reason to come back to the Igloo.
Speaking of which, Crosby's presence might also help bolster the Penguins efforts to receive funding from state gambling revenues to build a new arena.
Most importantly, if Crosby turns out to be the player he's expected to be, he will have a major impact on both improving the Penguins and in turn the NHL's visibility.
The Penguins have a great hockey history thanks to Lemieux and former Penguins like Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis. They were a recognizable name in the 1990s, and should their fortunes improve, led by a player who could become the biggest star in the league since Lemieux in his prime, their stock will once again rise, and with it, that of the NHL.
The Penguins were a dying franchise when Crosby came to them. Lemieux was getting too old to save them on the ice. To lose the Penguins, either via relocation or folding, would've been a major black eye for the NHL in it's efforts to improve its visibility and grow the game in the United States.
Crosby of course won't be able to do it alone. He'll need to be surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Some of the pieces (Malkin, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury) may already be in place, and given the reputation of GM Craig Patrick, who was responsible for building a championship cast around Lemieux in the early 1990s, more help could be on its way.
After months of swearing they'd never accept a hard salary cap and linkage, the NHLPA just signed off on those very elements in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The change in stance has puzzled many pundits and fans, leading to speculation as to what may have brought this change about.
Hopefully at some point in the future we'll have the full details as to what transpired, possibly from Bruce Dowbiggin who did a terrific job of piecing together the inside story of the 1994-95 labour war and its subsequent fall out in 2003's "Money Players".
From what I can piece together, from news resources and other sources, the basic story goes something like this:
The majority of the NHLPA membership were against the league's cries for cost certainty because the PA leadership didn't trust the league's numbers, which were based on the Levitt Report.
This was justifiable, for as more than one media outlet has shown, the Levitt Report was merely a review of each team's unified report of operations, and not the "super-audit" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman claimed it to be.
While a handful of players, mostly fringe players standing to earn less than the league's average salary, questioned the PA's stance, most willingly accepted it.
That doesn't mean they were lied to or misled. NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow informed them as to the reasons why the league's numbers and claims were in question, and forewarned them that, to get a deal without a hard cap or linkage, the players should be prepared to lose one or two seasons of salary.
This wasn't a last minute warning. It came as early as 2003, roughly 18 months before the league locked out the players on September 16, 2004. Given the lack of dissenting voices from most players, it was obvious they fully bought into the game plan at the time.
What began the shift in thinking was when it became obvious to some players that the 2004-05 season was in serious jeopardy of cancellation. These players,believed to include players reps Jarome Iginla, Chris Pronger and Robert Esche and outspoken veteran Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick, may have been under the impression that, as in 1995, a season-saving deal could be implemented in time.
When it was obvious that it wouldn't happen, it's believed in early February they went around the PA leadership to speak directly to NHL VP Bill Daly and possibly even Bettman himself to discuss the possibility of accepting a salary cap.
It's not clear if this had any influence on the PA's surprising proposal to consider acceptance of a salary cap, although it's believed the league first proposed removing linkage from the table in return for a hard cap ceiling.
Regardless, these efforts failed to produce a settlement, and Bettman officially cancelled the season on February 16, 2005.
Three days later, however, the two sides staged a surprise meeting in New York, where it was believed a season-saving deal might be hammered out after all. Some members of the PA even contacted Phoenix Coyotes co-owner Wayne Gretzky and Pittsburgh Penguins captain and owner Mario Lemieux to jet to the Big Apple to help broker the new deal.
It even led to the respected and usually reliable Hockey News to break a report that both sides had a "deal in principle" on Friday night, which would lead to an official announcement on Saturday.
Unfortunately, nothing came of these talks and The Hockey News was forced to make an embarrassed apology, although it stuck by its anonymous source, citing his reliability in the past.
One has to wonder just who this source was, and if perhaps a deal may have been reached, or perhaps he was led to believe it would be reached, and what may have occurred between Friday night and Saturday to derail it.
The PA subsequently held a meeting of its player reps, which was also attended by other players, where Roenick and others were believed to have been raked over the coals for their actions.
Not much else occurred for about a month, until the players executive - Trevor Linden, Vincent Damphousse, Bill Guerin, Arturs Irbe, and Bob Boughner - met in Pebble Beach in late March to discuss potential strategy.
They were slammed mercilessly by some in the media for choosing their location, painted as more interested in lounging in the sun playing golf than in discussing the direction their side might take in negotiations.
As it turns out, this may have been the time when the PA's strategy officially shifted. No one knows for certain how this was pitched by the executive to Goodenow or how he received it, but there can be no question that there was a change in the PA's strategy after that.
By early April, when the two side met again, the PA surprised the league by offering up what was considered to be a "hybrid cap system", which was to be based on some form of linkage.
The league was under pressure of its own by this time. ESPN was threatening not to pick up the option year in their contract, a threat it would ultimately follow through. Sponsers were believed to be grumbling, and surveys by most of the teams found fans support for the option of replacement players to be lukewarm at best. This had the potential to seriously cut into their all-important season ticket sales.
The league was consequently in a more concilliatory mood and thus willing to continue further dialogue with the PA, rather than continue its hardline stance as in the past.
From there, talks escalated, moving to a weekly scale to twice weekly to daily by the final weeks of negotiations.
There was considerable media speculation as talks progressed that Goodenow had been forced to the sidelines and the player executive, along with chief negotiator Ted Saskin, were driving negotiations.
Yet according to a reliable NHLPA source, Goodenow remained firmly in charge throughout, and while he may not have agreed with a salary cap and linkage, he nevertheless was willing to acquiesce to the wishes of the executive and the player reps.
In other words, if it was to be a cap and linkage, he and his team would negotiate the best deal possible.
In the aftermath of the signing of the CBA, some pundits were quick to write off Goodenow, claiming the players had lost this labour war badly.
Anyone willing to look past their bias and examine the details that werer leaked to the press will quickly realize that there's plenty in this deal that will benefit the players in the long run, and present a much better plan than anything proposed by the league prior to the season's cancellation.
But the intrigue, real and imagined, of what brought the NHLPA to this point could take some time, years perhaps, before we get the real story of how it all came about.
- In response to yesterday's regarding where James Mirtle got his stats on the Red Wings for his salary analysis diagram, here's his response:
"I got the numbers for my graphic from the ESPN rundown they did last week. I believe the numbers I used merely incorporate the RFAs with qualifying offers, as in almost every case these will be offered."
The mistake therefore was ESPN's, not James'.
Granted, Lyle hasn't overtly kicked down the doors in good old TB fashion, but even in his Fox columns, there's an underlying disdain for any NHL coverage he doesn't agree with.
I have no problem with differing opinions. What I have a problem with is when the coverage gets too one-sided with little substantiation to support those opinions.
This was evident in the last few weeks with all the "Players got Screwed" and "Goodenow Brainwashed Players" stories making the rounds, and which prompted those columns James refers to.
In last week's piece, for instance, there are none-too-subtle tongue lashings dealt to scribes who report the news of the day. Be sure to read the entire piece to get a sense of what was said, but what follows are choice excerpts
Yes, be sure to READ the ENTIRE PIECE to get a sense of what I wrote, rather than a couple of random snippets.
Starved for real news while impatiently awaiting the finalization of the new CBA, the hockey media lapped these comments up. Curiously, comments from players that disagreed with Avery, Legace and Roenick didn't get as much media play. . .
At the time, most in the media were getting bored with the "progress is continuing" headlines and were looking for any kind of exciting news to report. I don't fault them for reporting the comments of Avery, Legace and Roenick, but the fact remains that players with differing opinions received minimal coverage compared to what the aforementioned got.
It's obvious Goodenow was never going to receive favorable treatment by the hockey press. Had the NHLPA achieved a CBA without a hard cap and linkage, he would've been pilloried as killing the NHL's golden goose. Now that he's "negotiating a surrender", he's being painted as a stubborn egomaniac who misled and misinformed the players.
And I'm wrong exactly how in this assessment?
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has received his fair share of media criticism, most justified, some not. Goodenow, on the other hand, has received little favourable or fair treatment by most in the media.
For example, as I noted in the article James refers to, much was being made of Goodenow's "absence" from negotiations, that he'd been pushed to the sidelines by the player executive. Gary Bettman was also absent during the same period of time, but nobody suggested his power was being usurped.
I know Goodenow's not perfect or media friendly, has made his share of mistakes in this labour war and deserves his fair share of criticism. Indeed, two reporters confided to me over the course of this lockout that they considered Goodenow to be a prick.
That may well be, but in my opinion he has not received fair coverage by the press, and I've cited examples both here and in my Foxsports columns to substantiate that opinion.
Ah, pardon me while I wipe the grunge from my face - you did, after all, catch me in the middle of lapping up some remaining morsels of comments. As I know you'll understand my rather barnyard-like manner, what being in the media and all (and impatiently starved), I'm sure you won't mind should I relieve myself all over Spec's comments... all that lapping does fill one's bladder.
Nice to see that James can still respect my opinion even if he disagrees with it. I'm touched that he's willing to keep the discourse civil.
Look, it's obvious why the press jumped all over players attacking their union leader. It's news! Players supporting the union: status quo, not news. Players bashing the union head which they previously and uniformly (for appearance sake) backed: news.
I don't have a problem with that, but rather the lack of coverage given to players who defended the PA or Goodenow. A little balanced coverage wouldn't have hurt.
Why didn't the comments of Scott Young and Andrew Raycroft receive the same coverage as those of Roenick, Legace and Avery? They only explained that the players didn't like the structure of the league's final offer in February, and which by that point there really wasn't enough time left anyway to negotiate the myriad of complex issues other than a salary cap in order to implement a season-saving deal.
Again, I guess that wasn't as sexy as filling headlines with unsubstantiated tales of the Svengali Goodenow brainwashing the players.
Avery saying Goodenow brainwashed them: why, that sounds mighty interesting! My guess is that it would be interesting to readers as well - thereby making it news! Dan Cloutier saying he continues to embrace the everlasting love that his union leader provides him? Not news, so sorry Sir Chokes-a-lot.
So going by the above, if a player slams the association leadership, that's worth covering. If another player rebuts that comment, he's to be ignored and mocked.
So much for objectivity and balanced coverage.
Also, I cannot for the life of me wonder how the press can be unfavourable to Bob Goodenow! A union-leading lawyer! He's so loveable and warm. He cuddles with Al Strachan nightly.
As opposed to Gary Bettman, who's also a lawyer with all the charm of a snake-oil salesman who has his own media cheerleading section (hello, there, Stan Fischler).
Again, I have no problem with most in the media disliking Goodenow, but I do have a problem with unsubstantiated claims that he misled the players, that's he's being forced aside and might try to do everything he can to kill the deal.
That's not news, that's National Enquirer-esque sensationalism.
And after staunchly saying "no cap" for as long as anyone can remember, he did an about face and undid everything his membership worked for the past year.
Who said he did the about-face, James? We're now hearing that he was doing the bidding of the players, particularly the executive. They didn't want to risk losing another season over a salary cap and wanted to get the best deal they could.
He may not agree with it, but Goodenow has to negotiate as per the players' wishes, and their wishes obviously changed from "no cap ever" to "let's get the best one we can".
There's no one in the hockey media who doesn't think Bob did an absolutely splendid job for his clients in the past. . . he practically strangled the golden goose into a coma for all those years.
But of course, the team owners, particularly those in the big markets, had little to do with that, right? After all, they're only the ones who write the cheques, decide how much they're willing to pay their players, and only too happily exploited loopholes in the last CBA.
If this deal works out as I suspect it may, those who are running down Goodenow today could be eating their words in the future just as they did when they crowed about his supposed incompetence following the last lockout.
But, as Lyle says, Goodenow's job isn't to be well-liked. And mission accomplished on that front.
I wish you'd post my entire statement, James, that he wasn't hired by the players to be buddies with the media but rather to be a hard-nosed negotiator looking out for their best interests. In that regard, you're right, mission accomplished on that front.
My apologies if I overreacted, but you'll have to attribute that to my animal instincts.
I'm sure that can be treated with medication.
Now, please excuse me while I go scratch my ear.
I may have fleas.
Memo to me: send a box of flea collars to James for Christmas.
Sarcasm aside, I understand that he's sticking up for his profession and his fellow scribes, and that's admirable. What I don't understand is his obvious overreaction to criticism of the hockey media regarding some of its coverage of the lockout.
- Speaking of James, a Detroit Red Wings fan in Kansas City offers up a correction to his salary structure graphic:
The Wings do not have 16 players under contract for $38MM.
I don't know where he (Mirtles) got those numbers but they are wrong.
a link to a graphic on the
LetsGoWings website - one of the most
The Wings have 11 players under contract for 05/06. Cujo has a Club Option which will NOT be picked up. Shanny has a player option which he will exercise.
That makes 12 players with salary commitment of $31,065,000.
That means the Wings have cap room of $7,935,000 (assuming $39MM Cap) without taking any action.
still not enough room and the players that have been
Hiddely-ho, neighbour-enos. Just back from my short vacation and playing catch-up with all the latest.
- What's all this I keep hearing about the NHL not wishing to televise live the draft lottery this coming Thursday?
After a year of negative publicity, you'd think the league would want to start out on the right foot by allowing the broadcasting of who will get the right to the first overall pick in this year's entry draft, which would undoubtedly be used to select the most highly touted Junior player in over a decade, Sidney Crosby.
It would also take away any accusations, or at least blunt most of them, of fixing the draft in order for that selection to go to a team that would help the league's visibility, say, a club that plays in New York City?
But instead the draft lottery will apparently be out of bounds, with the results to be posted later once the draft is completed.
And if that selection were to go toward a certain New York City team, out of sight of the media and many hockey starved fans watching at home, that's only going to stoke speculation that the fix was in.
Not that I believe that sort of thing will occur. I can't believe that 30 NHL owners and GMs would be knowingly part of any funny business to hand the keys to the Crosby Cadillac to Glen Sather. If "El Sid" goes to Broadway, I think he'll go there legitimately.
But that's not going to stop angry fans from suggesting otherwise, which is why not broadcasting the lottery live is a big mistake on the league's part.
Hell, if people are willing to sit around and watch lottery balls drop on their hopes of winning millions, I'm sure there are plenty of NHL fans willing to do the same thing this Thursday to see if their team gets a shot at Sidney Crosby.
For a league that did a great job of besting the NHLPA in the PR war during the lockout, they're stumbling out of the gate in terms of winning back fan support.
-Oilers owner Cal Nichol claims the new CBA means his club will have "every opportunity to compete for the $7.8-million player."
And perhaps they will, for this season at least, what with the Oilers believed budgeting $33-$35 million for salary for 2005-06.
But will that payroll rise accordingly as the cap system rises with revenues in the coming years?
That, along with how much the Oilers get in revenue sharing, will determine just how long they can continue to bid competitively for a $7.8 million player.
Or should I say, the $8.5 million or even $9 million player, since after all, if the cap rises with revenues, so too does that league maximum of one player's salary not being worth more than 20 percent of a team payroll.
Is this to be long-term euphoria for the Oilers, or a short-term one before reality bites hard within the next two or three years?
Time will tell.
-Seems Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean believes the new CBA will help struggling small market clubs, which in turn could impede a possible return of an NHL franchise to Winnipeg:
"The salary cap does give Winnipeg the chance to get back in, but the only flaw in that is that Carolina and Nashville and these teams in the south we were hoping would fold and come to Winnipeg are also benefiting from the new CBA," said MacLean. "The other concern I have is that if you're a player right now, the only thing you have to look forward to as a free agent is a better choice of environment. You used to be able to look for the money. And if you were a player right now and are kind of public enemy No. 1, you're almost looking to get out of Dodge."
MacLean fears this belief could cause an influx of players to go to places like Florida or Phoenix where they can stay out of the limelight and avoid the scrutiny they could face in Canadian markets.
"That's not good for us in Canada and I think there's going to be a bit of a two-year fallout," said MacLean. "
Nonsense. Under this CBA, most of the best free agents will want to go where both the most money is and where they stand the best chance to play for a winner.
In most cases, that means the big markets. After all, they'll be the teams that'll be able to easily max out on their cap limits each year if they so desire, whether it's $39 million this season or $49 million in five years time, which is a possibility.
Most of the small markets won't be spending up to the cap limit but rather their own budgeted amounts. In Calgary, the Flames likely won't go higher than $30 million. In Pittsburgh, the Pens will be closer to $24 million than $39 million.
That goes for teams like Carolina and Nashville, too.
You're not going to see a rush of players seeking to "hide out" in Florida or Phoenix to avoid any heat from pissed off hockey fans blaming them for the lockout. Those who go there will more likely do so because they're the only teams able to afford them. Less will do so because of a burning desire to be a Predator or Hurricane. I'm sorry if that pisses off fans of those clubs, but folks, the truth hurts.
I'm skeptical that this CBA will benefit small market clubs. If those teams aren't willing to spend more, and if revenue sharing turns into the pittance that it is rumoured to become, and with free agency set to plummet to 27 or after seven years of active NHL service, I fail to see where those clubs will be any better under this CBA than they were under the last one.
Which could mean a franchise in Winnipeg within the next ten years after all...provided they have owners willing to pay the salaries to make it a winner, or at least competitive.
- Seems one influential NHL hockey man isn't that keen about lowering the UFA age to 27.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post reported Friday that New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has grave doubts about "liberalizing" free agency, even pleading with the league to restrict the lowering of the eligibility age to 30.
Apparently, Commissioner Gary Bettman ignored Lamoriello's pleas.
Now some might consider this sour grapes from the Devils' GM given he stands to lose Scott Gomez and Paul Martin by 2008 to unrestricted free agency.
But as Brooks points out, this creates headaches for other teams within the next two to three seasons, such as the Boston Bruins (Joe Thornton), the Tampa Bay Lightning (Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards), the Atlanta Thrashers (Ilya Kovalchuk), the Ottawa Senators (Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara), the San Jose Sharks (Patrick Marleau and Brad Stuart) and the Florida Panthers (Roberto Luongo).
Which in turn means a CBA that was supposedly "owner friendly" may not be so after all.
Actually, I stand correct, it IS owner friendly...to those owners who can afford to max out their cap limit every season in pursuit of these younger free agents that the small markets can't or won't be able to retain.
If you're a small to mid-market team, this sucks ass, and casts more doubt on the league's claims that this deal was about parity and helping small markets better compete against their big market cousins.
During the past ten years, with the NFL operating under its salary cap, 16 of 31 or 32 NFL (roughly 50%) made the Super Bowl, with seven different teams winning (less than 25%) -- but with one team, New England, appearing in half of those ten Super Bowls and winning three of the last four. Meanwhile, with the NHL operating under its heinous free-market CBA, 12 of the league's 26 to 30 teams (roughly 45% on average) have been Stanley Cup finalists, with five having won the Cup -- but with no team reaching the finals as many times as New England has in the NFL. Over the past 15 years, there have been ten different Super Bowl champs compared to nine different Stanley Cup champs, 16 different Super Bowl participants compared to 19 Stanley Cup finalists. How much more parity can a league stand?
Shhhhh, Dubi! You're raining on the league's parity parade!
All I can say is, once again, the fans are gonna find out the hard way.
- My thanks to "Ted" for sending me the following link regarding the opinion of IIHF Information and Media Relations Manager Szymon Szemberg's take on potential rule changes for the upcoming NHL season. Nice to get a European perspective on this.
- The Globe and Mail had a piece up this past Friday on how much money NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow was making, noting that he was the highest paid union boss in Canada.
Mr. Goodenow's $2.5-million salary is larger than that of major league baseball union leader Don Fehr ($1-million), National Basketball Association Players Association boss Billy Hunter ($1.8-million) and only slightly less than that of National Football League union head Gene Upshaw (reportedly $2.7-million to $3-million).
To which I say, good for Goodenow.
The NHLPA membership approved that contract in 2002, and unlike NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (who makes $3.5 million per year), Goodenow declined to draw his salary while the players were locked out.
Although his players have taken a 24-per-cent salary rollback as part of the new agreement, there's no indication Mr. Goodenow or other members of the NHLPA executive will do the same.
If that becomes an issue, the players can either demand his salary be rolled back or he could do so voluntarily.
My point is, this isn't news. What, exactly, does Goodenow's contract have to do with what the new CBA contains?
If the players get "screwed" as so many pundits have claimed in recent weeks, then fine, they can vote to terminate his employment and buy him out, or they can just not bother to re-sign him when his contract expires.
I fail to see what this has to do with how this new CBA will work out for the players over the life of the deal.
If anything, this is lumped into what continues to be baseless assumptions from some in the media that Goodenow is either going to be fired or will re-sign.
Perhaps one or the other will occur in the coming days, but for Buddha's sake, would it kill those who are writing this story to actually come up with some real substantiation rather than speculation?
I don't see Goodenow quitting because that's not his style, and while there may be some players unhappy with him, I think he still has the support of the majority, meaning he won't be fired, bought out, or passed over for a new contract.
The timing of this is certainly curious, coming just days after the PA and the league signed off on a new CBA that would, in the short term, see players take paycuts of 24% and the capping of their salaries to start at $39 million next season.
- James Mirtle has a graphic up showing the current salary structure of the 30 NHL teams. It's a nice all-in-one perspective of just how much room each team has to play with and just how many player each team must sign.
James also asked the following:
Who knew, for instance, that the Phoenix Coyotes had 21 players signed already? Or that the Vancouver Canucks have the eighth most financial muscle available?
The Hockey News, for one, in their July Swimsuit Edition...er, I mean, their feature on how some housewives of NHL players, in particular, the babe housewives, were making do during the lockout.
For anyone who could tear their eyes away from the cheesecake, there was a banner splashed across the cover that read: "Special Report: Salary Cap Impact on All 30 Teams". That's where I found the answers to those questions of James' weeks before he posed them.
In fact, if James had picked up the copy of that issue as he said he planned to do, he would've had those answers earlier, too. Now I'm not ragging on him, just sayin', is all.
Still, I like the fact that James has it nicely encapsulated into a graphic...the salary figures I mean, not the babe housewives...oh hell, let's move on, shall we?
- Actually, after reading more of Jame's blog, I do have a bone to pick regarding this:
I'd also like to offer, at some point, a rebuttal to Tom Benjamin and Lyle Richardson's twin lambasting of the mainstream media that they've offered up over the course of the lockout. Next to league commissioner Gary Bettman, hockey fans' Great Villain, according to these fellows, is the lowly media scribe, who apparently panders solely to his own self-interest (which, as they have stated, is unduly influenced by the NHL's ownership groups).
It's one thing to disagree with the media coverage being offered, but it's quite another to spout 'bias' when it's not even in play.
I'm not about to speak for Tom, who does a very good job in that regard, but I think in defending himself and his fellow scribes, James overreacted a little.
In my previous Soapbox, I claimed I'd lost respect for certain hockey pundits because of what I believe was obvious bias and lack of objectivity.
Nowhere in that column did I lambast the media as a whole, accuse them of pandering or being in the pocket of league interest or that they're the second worst evil to face hockey fans.
While I may have called into question the objectivity of some, I never claimed that all of them are "unduly influenced by the NHL's ownership groups" or that they pander solely to their own self-interest.
If not for the mainstream media, this website wouldn't exist, and I wouldn't have a second job as a freelancer for Foxsports.com, so why would I run it down when it's given me money and a sliver of fame over the past seven years?
As for Bettman, I have given him props at times, especially for his work negotiating on the owners behalf, where I believe he's every bit Bob Goodenow's equal.
And no, I don't believe he's some slimy shyster lawyer as some hockey fans - and dare I say, a few writers? - have suggested. He's been hired by the owners to work on their behalf,and at the negotiating table, as well as in marketing and expansion, he achieved the results they sought. He's also probably a decent guy in private life.
That being said, his record as NHL Commissioner speaks for itself and I make no apologies for anything I've written about it.
Just wanted to clear that up for ya, James. Still love the blog, by the way, and I'm glad to see you have time now to update it regularly.
Barring the unforeseen, it would appear our long NHL nightmare is drawing to a close.
Once the deal is ratified by both sides next week, it'll be officially "Game On 2005" for the National Hockey League.
In the coming days, we're going to hear plenty from the media about who won and lost, with most pundits declaring the NHLPA, and especially Bob Goodenow, the big losers. I've expressed my opinion as to how this deal could work out for the players so I won't chew my cabbage twice.
In my mind, there are no winners out of this. Everybody lost.
Yes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the hard line owners got the hard salary cap and linkage plus some other restrictions and salary clawbacks they were seeking.
But it came at the cost an entire season's worth of revenues, the loss of a contract with ESPN, the potential loss of some sponsors and potential reductions in other sponsorship revenues, more tarnish on the NHL's already blighted image, and potentially serious damage to their fanbase.
Yes, NHLPA Director Bob Goodenow managed to minimize the financial damage to the players by lowering UFA eligibility, ensuring the potential for the cap system to increase yearly, retention of arbitration rights and other points.
But it came at the cost of a year's worth of salaries and playing time for the players, other short-term financial losses, plus a year's worth of the players reputations dragged through the mud by fans egged on by a biased media.
Speaking of which, I've lost some respect for certain pundits that I once had over the course of this lockout. Not because I may have disagreed with their stance, but because of the obvious bias some of them displayed with scarcely a shred of objectivity.
NHL and team employees were perhaps the biggest losers, innocent bystanders who got caught in the crossfire and suffered the loss or reduction of employment and wages.
They're the only ones deserving of any sympathy, and if both sides had any sense of decency, they'd apologize directly to each of those employees, and the teams and the league should rehire them at double their wages to make up for their losses from last year.
Of course, that's not going to happen. Those people were left out in the cold and some of them may not get their jobs back, let alone receive any sort of apology.
Hockey fans are also losers in all of this.
They've had to cool their heels whilst watching the NHL and NHLPA engage in a year-long pissing contest that could've and should've been settled without the loss of an entire season and inflicting more damage on a sports league that could ill afford to sustain that damage.
Sure, some teams are going to drop their ticket prices for next season and other will freeze them, but don't be fooled, hockey fans, this is a short-term ploy designed to try to get you back.
All the talk of how a new CBA with cost certainty would result in more affordable prices was a load of crap. Markets, not salaries, determine ticket prices.
Those prices are still going to be expensive for next season, and after this season you'll see prices in each NHL city rise or fall depending on their market, not their payrolls.
Yeah, we'll hear all kinds of talk about rule changes and plans to aggressively market the NHL game, but it's rather pathetic that this couldn't have been addressed three or five or seven years ago, rather than in the fallout of a lost season.
I'm in agreement with TSN's Bob McKenzie (one of the few hockey pundits who emerged from this with his good reputation still intact) that it's far too early to determine which side this new CBA will benefit the most, but when it comes to image, fan support, marketing and growing the game, there were no winners in this.
As for me, I don't want an apology from the NHL or NHLPA. It's pointless to ask or demand it, since it wouldn't be sincere. Neither I or you were factors in this labour drama and neither side really gave a damn about us. If they had, they would've avoided this nightmare in the first place.
The only tning I want is for both sides to learn from this, to understand that if they pull this stunt again in four or six years time, they might as well kiss their league bye-byes.
The damage from this lockout was serious but not fatal. Next time may be different.
I want both sides to learn to negotiate in good faith with costing them an entire season, and I want them to start improving this game and market it the way it should be done, not half-heartedly and half-assed as in the past.
In other words, shut up and play hockey!
As for me, this has been a very long, tiring road following this labour war on a daily basis since last September. I think I've become a better writer and analyst and I've learned a lot about the business of hockey, but I've also had my fill with the labour nonsense.
I'm looking forward now to next month's free agent and trade frenzy as all 30 teams restock their rosters in time for the October 5th start of the 2005-06 season.
After today, I'm going to be taking a short four-day vacation starting Friday (I'll post up the latest rumours Friday morning before I depart and there will be a Friday Foxsports.com column) until Monday because I need some downtime from all this.
Starting next week, I'll be scaling back my Soapbox updates to perhaps two or three per week as I return my focus more on the inevitable growing number of trade and free agent rumours as we head toward August when the real fun begins.
Of course, I'll still have my thrice weekly Foxsports column where I'll be summarizing and analysing the more juicier rumours and perhaps an occasional comment on other hockey related news.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who stuck with me throughout this lockout and checked out my column regularly. The number of unique hits to my site dropped substantially over the course of the lockout, but they never went below 1,000 per day during the workweek or below 750 per day on weekends and holidays.
Your support and feedback (positive and negative) were greatly appreciated and made this job even more worthwhile during the darkest days of the labour war. You guys are the best.
As first reported this morning by MSG Network's Stan Fischler and later confirmed by the NHL, both the league and the NHLPA have agreed to a deal in principle which pending ratification should be implemented by sometime next week.
Fischler tells us it could still take a day or two for the lawyers to finish writing the agreement. Once the NHLPA has discussed the details with the PA's executive committee, it should be put before a ratification vote by the PA membership.
That could occur probably at some time next week. It's believed the NHL Board of Governors will await the results of the players vote, believed scheduled for next Tuesday, at which time it's believed they'll rubber-stamp the deal two days later.
Shortly after that, we should have both NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow staging the official press conferences to announce the deal and to discuss its main points with the media.
Fischler claims the start date for the 2005-06 season will be October 5th. Other details are sketchy and it's believed there will be more news forthcoming.
Much of what he reports as believed part of the deal were leaked to other media sources weeks ago, and I've offered up my opinion in previous articles. TSN has published an abridged version on their website.
I will provide more commentary on this for my Foxsports.com column later today.
So where do we go from here?
For now, we await the results of the ratification votes, meaning this long nightmare will finally be over by possibly next Friday at the latest.
But don't expect any sudden trades, buyouts or UFA signings right away. It's gonna take the GMs about two weeks or so to examine the new CBA in detail before they determine what moves they'll make.
So that means we can probably expect the first wheelings and dealings to commence in early August.