The NHL’s Opening Offer is Insulting to Fans and Players Alike

A little nervous about the Wings’ upcoming season?  Well don’t be, because Gary’s apparently going to do whatever he can to make sure there’s a lockout this year.  Per numerous sources around the league, the NHL’s first offer to the NHLPA included the following major points: 

1 – Reduce players hockey related revenues to 46% from 57%. This league revenue number would be redefined to be significantly smaller as well. 
2 – 10 seasons in NHL before being UFA.  Rookie contract limits for 5 years, then five years of RFA status.
3 – Contracts limited to 5 years. 
4 – No more salary arbitration.
5 – Cap ceiling to be set $4M above midpoint, floor $8M under.  
6 – Eliminate signing bonuses and mandate same salary in each season with 5-yr term limit.  

Does Gary not remember anything from 2005?  Jesus.  I expected them to ask for a lot, but not to shove their middle finger in the player’s face.  

While you want to be strong and firm in your initial offer, you don’t want to be insulting to the other party if you want a deal to be made, not when it’s a long term party such as the NHLPA.   This offer by the NHL takes the cake though; it isn’t just insulting to the players, it is insulting to us fans as well.   It’s a sign, once again, that the NHL really don’t give two sh!ts about us.  Not that this is news, but it hurts for it to be so blatantly obvious.  

Hit the jump for some analysis and thoughts on the proposal.  

Now I know a little about sports law and the NHL probably can push for these strong limits legally without having to worry about anti-trust issues simply due to the KHL’s recent rise to power.  Today players have some choice in where they play.   So legally, by just a quick glance and without diving into the details at all, this is all possible.

Anyways, I thought it’d be interesting to put a couple thoughts on each of these.  I’m not pro NHL or PA, just thinking of what is best for the league.  Of course, this is just my opinion, but here goes.  

1 – Reduce players hockey related revenues to 46% from 57%. This league revenue number would also be redefined to be significantly smaller.

The NHL starts out swinging with this one.  This isn’t a 11% decrease as some are reporting, this is a 19% decrease when you actually do the math.   Actually, with the way they are planning on re-defining what revenue means, it will probably be around a 25% decrease and will likely be around 40% (just a guess) of revenue using today’s terms.   This is significantly lower than the NBA, which is around 51%, even though they only have to pay 9 players per team.  I expected the NHL to start out around 50% and end up around 52% when it is all said and done.  Gary took a bit more of an extreme position and is a horrible start to this negotiation session.    

This one gets 5 out of 5 Middle Fingers from the NHL to the PA as being extremely insulting and unfair. 

2 – 10 seasons in NHL before being a UFA. Rookie contract limits for 5 years, then five years of RFA status.

As a fan, this is too long.  Yes, a team should be able to protect it’s investment for a couple years.  But this reeks of simply being a ploy to keep deserving players from earning what they deserve, rather than any sort of protection of investment.  As a fan, I’d like to see 3 years rookie contract and 2-3 years as a RFA.   That allows a player to grow with a team, but still lets him get to the open market at a reasonable time.   Having a lot of UFA’s are good for everyone, as it actually keeps costs down in a way.  The interest in Suter wouldn’t have been stupidly high if there had been 5 other UFA defensemen in his league on the market.  He would have actually made what he was worth, rather than the 12 million that he was given for this season.  Hudler would have not got 4.5 million or whatever he ended up with if there was more than 3 UFA’s on the market.   It’s a counter-intuitive proposition, but despite the NHL’s fear of UFA, the more UFA’s, the less they are worth.   It is simple economics that they seem to have forgotten.  

Maybe you do something where you give the team that drafted a player some sort of advantage over other teams (higher max. contract, less salary cap hit, etc.), but this is simply ridiculous.

5 out of 5 Middle Fingers

3 – Contracts limited to 5 years.

Now, as a fan, I don’t hate this idea.   I think I’d choose limiting contracts to 6 years because I’m difficult, but overall, more free agents make each year more interesting.   As a fan, I get bored with the same players on the same teams aways.  I like to see some change when we see teams.  Plus it makes the summer much much more bearable, as compared to say, this summer of waiting and boredom.  

2 out of 5 Middle Fingers

4 – No more salary arbitration.

This, combined with the TEN years of experience before UFA, is one of the biggest FU’s to the NHLPA the league could think of.   Not only are the player’s owner the only team that realistically can sign with, but now they don’t have an option to get a fair offer as decided by an independent arbitrator.  This honestly is insulting to players, who are not only dealing with a league system where they can’t negotiate with all potential employers for 10 years, but would have no recourse if a team refused to pay a player a fair wage.  

4 out of 5 Middle Fingers

5 – Cap ceiling to be set $4M above midpoint, floor $8M under.

If this was the case, we might as well have the league run by the NHL and just do a yearly draft.  There has to be some disparity between good teams and poor teams.   Parity is a good thing, but having every team be mediocre sucks.   I hate the Puck Stops Here over at Kuklaskorner, but his argument that the cap breaks up great teams and makes everyone mediocre would actually be true in this world.   I don’t want to watch hockey where you are pretty much limited to two superstars per team, I want to be able to see Datsyuk and Zetterberg play on a team that can include those two, but also Franzen, Filppula and Lidstrom as well.   Great teams are interesting to fans, losing that gives you a league full of Minnesota’s.  No one wants that.  

3 out of 5 Middle Fingers.  

6 – Eliminate signing bonuses and mandate same salary in each season with 5-yr term limit.

I think, with the salary term limits, this is fairly unnecessary.   Huge cap changes and signing bonuses make a difference when the contract is 10 years long, but not when they are limited to five.   

2 out of 5 Middle Fingers

Anyway you look at this though, this sucks.  This wasn’t an opening offer from a league that is dedicated to make sure a lockout is avoided.  Whether or not they originally planned on it, the NHLPA is going to take a hard, aggressive stance now.   They almost have to.  It’s a shame, because both sides should be working together to find the best situation that works for the league as a whole, rather than forcing the situation towards an all out war again.   This isn’t Congress Gary, working together is allowed.    As one reporter put it.  

“The moment the proposal was presented, every player in the room knew Gary had just written off 1st 3 months of the season.” – an NHL agent

— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype)

Once again, it’s frustrating and embarrassing to be a NHL fan.  Good work Gary.