This is my fifth post in a weekly series examining the major issues surrounding the current ongoing negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA as they attempt to reach a deal before the current CBA expires on Sept.15th. You can view the previous posts by clicking the links at the bottom of this post.
Today, I will look at three issues that, while not dealbreakers, will no doubt be heavily discussed over the coming weeks. First, the issue of guaranteed contracts, while including the issue of no-trade clauses and then determining what value should be applied to a teams Salary Cap.
For a long time, this has been an issue that has been on the back burner but has never really become a forefront stumbling block. This seems to be an aspect that one side can give a little on to show goodwill but not go the whole distance in terms of revamping the system. Currently, players on one way contracts are guaranteed to receive their salary no matter where they are playing. The lone exception comes during specific buyout periods where a team can buyout the remainder of a player’s contract and only have a certain percentage paid out and count towards the salary cap.
The owners would obviously like more options to get out of contracts like their NFL counterparts, while the players want more guarantees. This is probably something that the players will not give in on, nor do I think they should. If a player earns a negotiated contract from a team, that team should be forced to live with it. Just as players cannot renegotiate in the middle of an in-force contract if they are exceeding expectations, teams should be stuck with a bad contract as well.
These clauses are sometimes limited and often individually negotiated. There seems to be an increasing number of these clauses being handed out around the league and they are handcuffing a number of teams. In my opinion, a player has every right to refuse to waive their no-trade clause, just as a team has a right to ask them to waive it. But once a player with a no-trade asks to be traded, that clause should then be completely revoked. Players like Dany Heatley and Rick Nash signed huge deals with the expectations that they would have the services of that player for the duration of the contract. For their own reasons, they wanted out of their respective situations by demanding a trade but then completely shrinking the market by saying they would only accept certain markets as destinations. This practice is completely unfair to the team’s and in my opinion it should be a collectively bargained issue as such, so that it is a league-wide policy.
DETERMINING CAP HITS
The current CBA uses the average annual value of a contract to determine the cap hit. This is confusing and allows for too much wiggle room and the long, dwindling value contracts as teams try to find loopholes to circumvent the spirit of, if not the letter of the salary cap law. I think that the actual salary should be the cap hit. If the sides agree that there will be a limit to the length of a contract, then there cannot be the drastic difference in annual salary based on the rules that exist, and this would be a more feasible alternative. This would avoid teams signing players to large deals in their prime, and then passing along inflated cap hits with lower salaries along to low revenue teams once they get past their prime. The cap as it exists now is a work in progress that has a lot of opportunity to hide mistakes and let the rich teams have more leeway than their respective poorer brethren. Forcing the cap hit and the actual salary to be one and the same essentially closes up more than one of those loopholes and creates a more equitable playing field (in conjunction with some of the other recommendations I have put forth over the past few weeks.
There are obviously many more issues to work out such as pension, Olympic participation and training camp issues, but I think I have covered most of the key factors individually. Next week I will take a stab at combining them all together to come up with a mini-CBA that should assuage both sides while not having either side give up too much.
Until then, please check back at my other CBA-related articles:
SPLITTING THE REVENUE PIE between players and teams
CAPPING CONTRACT LENGTH for new contracts
UFA TIMING AND ROOKIE CONTRACTS – changing the length of entry level deals and extending UFA qualification time