Thursday, January 10, 2013

Likes And Dislikes In The New CBA

The CBA hasn't been ratified, but when it has been, agents and general managers will pore over it to find unscoured ground, in hopes of seeing loopholes.  The league office was none too pleased at the loopholes found in the previous agreement and sought to rectify these.  Let's go over what I liked and disliked - things I think will be good for BOTH the league and players.

Let's start with dislikes first:

35+ Rule Stays:  In fairness, I have followed a team that has had a 35+ contract on its books for all but two years of the previous CBA.  Lou Lamoriello either didn't notice this rule or didn't care about it, and he had to trade away a first round pick and buyout Trent Hunter to rid himself of the onerous contracts he had as a result, in addition to the total lack of value each deal provided.  The 35+ Rule is designed to prevent teams from signing players to long contracts which they have no intention of fulfilling.  However, with the new contract variance rules in place (a contract can't decrease by more than 35% year to year and any given year can't be less than 50% of the first year), the incentives for loading up deals to aging players isn't there.  I don't see why this rule would stay in place - it prevents players from getting the security in a longer deal that they might want, and makes it more difficult for teams to trade players on one of these contracts.

Minimum Salary Increases:  While I recognize that the NHL minimum salary should rise from its current $525,000 figure, I think its rising to $750,000 by 2021-22 is bad for teams.  Although as we'll see later, the differences between two-way and one-way contracts have essentially been obliterated by this CBA, I just don't think 4th liners contribute enough to their team winning to have their contract go up by 50% over the course of 10 years, and that this is money being taken out of the pockets of players who contribute more to their teams.  Are the NHL and NHLPA anticipating an equal rise in the salary cap?

Opt out After Year 8:  I understand why this is in place, but it makes the CBA an 8 year deal, in effect.  It's hard to imagine under what circumstances the owners won't lock the players out.

Rules I Like:

- Re-entry waivers gone:  Fringe NHLers who crush the AHL had a troubling calculus to make each season.  If they signed a one-way contract and didn't make the team out of camp, they could be stuck in the minor leagues all year.  If they signed a two-way contract to make half their NHL salary at the AHL level, the same thing could happen.  The only way they could guarantee an equal shot at being a callup was to lower their salary to $105,000 - I mean, that's certainly a fine amount of money, but hockey careers are short.  The NHL was probably tired of losing these types of players to European leagues who were willing to pay more - it will be interesting to see who comes back to the NHL next year with this rule in place.

- All contracts count on the cap that are in excess of $375,000 more than the minimum salary, counting for the amount they are in excess, whether the player on that contract is playing in Europe or wherever:  Certainly Wade Redden is enjoying his $6.5 million he's been receiving these last few years toiling for the Connecticut Whale.  Still, it's hard to imagine that such a player wouldn't trade some guaranteed money for another chance at the NHL.  Under the new system, the Rangers would be forced to buy Redden out.  One might think this is awful for the Rangers, but they get a benefit:  they can stash players making $1M in the minor leagues for only $100,000 on the cap.  That player would be eligible for waivers (presumably), but without re-entry waivers, if the market considers that player overpriced, it will leave him alone.  Big market teams still get an advantage wrt signing players here, it's just that it's at the NHL's fringe.

- Jeff Carter rule - No-trade clauses can come into effect when a player signs a new contract, not when he starts to play under that contract:  This one feels pretty self-explanatory - the Flyers signing Jeff Carter to an 11 year contract and trading him is a massively bad faith move.  The Flyers repeated this by trading James Van Riemsdyk after signing a 7 year contract.  JVR would likely not have been protected by this rule, but still - it's awfully low to sign a player to a contract, thereby increasing his value, then fobbing him off on another team.

All in all, I think the NHL shored up a lot of loopholes in the previous agreement, but the players made some gains here, gains which are good both for players and for the league.

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