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NHL CBA Talks Take an Ominous Turn

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I was browsing through Twitter this morning, trying to get caught up on all the things I've missed the past week, when a Tweet stopped me dead in my tracks.


Honestly, my first thought was, "Good. No more 10-year contracts." Then I thought, "Woah. Wait. 11% cut? Are you serious?"

So I opened up PD's article, read it, thought, "Well, I guess baseball is okay, football ain't bad either," and started snooping around the net for more information. The NHL's (aka, the owners') list of demands is far-reaching and truly signals that hockey in October is doubtful. The entirety of it is focused on limiting the amount of money players can make.

Let's start with that contract business.

Contracts limited to 5 years max
A proposal to put a maximum term limit on contracts is not only a positive move, it's a needed one. Locking down players for half their careers is a ridiculous notion, putting a strangle hold on player movement. As more and more stars in the league demand it, the more GMs either will be forced into signing half the roster to long deals or will push back by signing the lower-tier guys to shorter and shorter contracts. No matter how you cut it, a limit was necessary. However, is a 5-year term pushing it a bit? It does not have any stipulations regarding factors such age or years in the league: all players will be subject to that 5-year constraint. At the end of the season, when it wasn't clear whether or not Milan Hejduk would return, he commented on how rare it was for players to be able to stay with one club for their entire careers. This limit would make that even less likely.

Front-loaded contracts and signing bonus eliminated
The trend of front-loaded contracts will come to an end under this proposal. All contracts will have a uniform cap hit pay out, dividing the total contract amount equally throughout the term. Overall, I think this was also necessary. It's one thing to give incentives like Jamie McGinn clearly just got. But the GMs are using the ability to average out a cap hit from a sliding annual salary as a circumvention. We all know that had to stop.

Signing bonuses will also be a thing of the past. Hopefully, this is an area in which the owners are willing to give. If the other contract stipulations go into effect, you reduce the power GMs have to lure the high-end FAs. Under this proposal, you couldn't do it by length of the contract. You couldn't do it with money up front. You couldn't do it with exceedingly high annual salaries (see Cap reduced). So the only thing that would bring the elite players to a particular team is the desire of the player to be on that team.

Few players will take the Suter-Parise route and sign with a team for personal reasons rather than financial ones (although the money didn't suck for either of them). Most players will go where they have the best chance at winning the Stanley Cup. As Avalanche and Oilers fans know all too well, you don't create a contender solely through draft and development. You need veteran, skilled free agents. But if losing teams can't lure them—no pretty contracts or playoff promises—parity disappears. Isn't parity what the last CBA was all about?

Entry-level contracts and RFA status extended
Currently, a player's entry-level contract expires at 3 years. The owners want it to last 5 years. Currently, a player becomes an unrestricted free agent at 27 or after 7 years in the NHL. The owners want 10 years no matter how old the player is. These demands are about nothing but money. If that RFA status is extended to 10 years, I bet you will see more teams breaking that unwritten rule regarding outbidding qualifying offers. Think about it. Players that make it to the NHL right after being drafted will be an RFA until they are 28 or 29. NCAA players? 32-33. Oh. Okay, owners. (Thanks, Bubs.)

Arbitration no longer an option
Don't like what the company offers you? During the first ten years of your NHL career, tough shit.

Cap reduced
This isn't about what the number actually will be. This is about limits on how high it can be: only $4 million above the midpoint. As it stands now, the cap comes in at $8 million above the midpoint. So no matter how high the midpoint is, teams would have $4 million less to work with. I guess Greg Sherman's insistence of hugging the salary floor wasn't such a bad idea. He doesn't need to alter that plan because, unlike the cap, the floor remains at $8 million below the midpoint.

Players' revenues slashed
The NHL wants to go all Freddy Krueger on the players. It wants to reduce their hockey related revenues 11%, from the current 57% down to only 46%. Forget equality. Forget middle ground. Nah, let's just take the assets that make us money in the first place and tell them to fuck off. What's worse is that the definition of "hockey related revenues" would change dramatically, thereby cutting that profit sharing figure even more.

One, Two....NHL's Coming for You
Three, Four....Better Lock Your Door
Five, Six....Grab Your Hockey Sticks
Seven, Eight....Better Stay Away
Nine, Ten.....Time to Golf Again

Obviously, like any negotiation, this is the first step. When buying a car, you start with the extreme number, and hopefully the dealer will come down to the price you really think is fair. The owners are swinging for the fences, hoping that something might make it through. We hope. If they play hard ball and are unwilling to compromise, the season may be lost again. Worst possible scenario for the league and its fans. You would think the owners would know this and be reasonable. You would think.

The other major part of the equation is the players. Will they agree to any of this? There are some serious concessions being asked of them here. Surely they are willing to give a little in order to keep playing in North America. Surely.

Unfortunately, the one thing we know for sure is that the possibility of the season starting on time just dropped. I hope you didn't have any shares in that stock.

*again, stick tap to i2strange97 for scooping on this story