Earlier this week ESPN's Pierre Lebrun revealed the latest details from the 300-page CBA proposal that the NHL tabled for the NHLPA on December 27th.
The NHL posed a variety of changes to its offer in an attempt to move the two sides closer to an agreement. I've highlighted a few of said changes below along with their potential impact on the Senators.
• Term limit on player contracts moves to six years from the five years NHL asked in previous offers (seven years if you're re-signing your own player).
The longest contracts that the Bryan Murray regime has awarded since taking over for John Muckler belong to Jason Spezza (seven years, $49 million) and Erik Karlsson (seven years, $42.5 million). Including Murray’s signings of some past-their-prime stars like Alexei Kovalev and to a much lesser extent, Sergei Gonchar, the Murray regime has been pretty fiscally responsible with the payroll. We can attribute the organization’s ‘rebuild’ as one of the principle explanations for how the Senators went from a cap ceiling team to icing one of the least inexpensive rosters in the NHL, but despite some mainstream radio postulation that this could be the result of Eugene Melnyk’s personal finances and potential interest in selling the club, last summer’s chase of Rick Nash helps suppress whatever fears there may be that this team is unwilling to spend money on payroll once the team is ready to contend. More on this later…
• Year-to-year salary variance moves from 5 percent (NHL's previous offers) to 10 percent.
In an effort to crackdown on General Managers that circumvent the cap in the short-term by inking star players to exorbitant frontloaded long-term deals with inexpensive final years tacked onto the deal, the league is looking to crack down on contracts that have been handed out in recent years to the likes of Roberto Luongo, Marian Hossa, and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Although Ottawa has never really structured a long-term deal like this, given the parameters, no future contracts could be structured like Daniel Alfredsson’s current four-year pact which featured two front loaded seasons at $7 million, one at $4.5 million and a fourth season at $1 million.
If GM's are limited in term and variance, I wouldn't be surprised if cap-hits for premier players rise.
• Each team will be allowed one compliance buyout before the 2013-14 season that will not count against the salary cap but will count against the players' share.
For a roster like Ottawa’ that is lacking a worthy buyout candidate, to learn that it will probably be losing one of its competitive advantages moving forward is a punch to the stomach. Although seeing an Eastern Conference rival like the Rangers dump Wade Redden will not affect their cap situation – Redden’s cap hit never counted because he was effectively buried in the AHL – teams like the Sabres or Flyers will be permitted to ditch short-sighted mistakes like Ville Leino or an Ilya Bryzgalov.
It’s enough to wonder whether there should be any reward for teams like Ottawa that have been fiscally responsible. Perhaps the NHL could follow baseball’s model and use a one-time sandwich round between the 2013 Draft’s first and second rounds to provide clubs with a supplemental draft selection (note: baseball uses these sandwich rounds to provide teams that lose players, who were offered arbitration, to free agency.)
One Twitter follower (@iancmclaren) pointed out that one benefit the Senators would receive is their ability to go and ink a few of these bought out players. While true that Ottawa has the cap space and some holes on the blue line to fill, I’m not sure it makes up for the competitive advantage that was lost; especially when they’ll be competing with 29 other teams to sign these players and inevitably driving up the price of these castoffs. (As an aside, once the lockout ends and these amnesty buyouts become a reality, what’s the over/under on the number of ‘Bring Back Redden’ articles/blogs that will be penned over the course of the next few weeks? This angle has an opportunity to exceed Don Brennan/Zenon Konopka-like levels.)
Moreover, Ottawa’s farm system is oversaturated with prospects; many of whom are on the cusp of playing in the NHL. I’m not sure it’s worth boxing some of these inexpensive players and forfeiting whatever opportunity there is to bring in an elite player like Corey Perry in free agency since so many other teams will be focused on becoming cap compliant.
• The proposed CBA would remain a ten-year deal (through 2021-22 season) with a mutual opt-out option after eight years. The rules for the Entry Level System, Salary Arbitration and Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agency also remain unchanged.
Interesting to note that the current entry-level system will remain as it is because I had a particular interest in seeing whether the next CBA would adversely affect Mika Zibanejad’s current entry-level contract.
If a player aged 18 or 19 signs an entry-level contract with a club (with his age calculated on Sept. 15 of the year he signed the contract) but does not play in at least 10 NHL games, the contract will "slide" or be extended one year. The extension does not apply if the player turns 20 between Sept. 16 and Dec. 31 in the year he signed the contract.
Depending on the contract's structure, the player's cap hit can be affected either by an increase or a decrease. Players who sign at age 18 can have their contract extended (or "slide") two seasons.
In light of his lack of offensive production, complicated somewhat by a series of injuries (or lingering concussion symptoms stemming from a hit last April, depending on who you ask), the longer Zibanejad remains out of the Binghamton lineup, the less likely he is to get a shot with the parent club in the immediate future. Throw in the inevitability of a shortened season and the fact that other prospects have outperformed Zibanejad and may have their development impacted less by the limited minutes that would come playing on one of Ottawa’s third or fourth lines and it’s not a stretch to imagine a situation in which Mika fails to surpass the 10 NHL game threshold in 2013 and has his ELC slide for another year.
• One area believed to be a concern among the players will be the proposed $60 million salary cap, beginning in 2013-14 (clubs will have a $70.2 million upper limit in 2012-13). Sources indicated that players are wary of the implications the cap would have on escrow amounts.
Everyone aboard the Corey Perry bandwagon!
• Player “Working Condition” improvements, including: 1. Ice-time restrictions and mandatory “days off” requirements during Training, 2. Club practice schedule and “days off” requirements during the Regular Season.
As SteffeG pointed out to me, less days off and less informal skates means less Matt Spezza appearances at practice.
• Other elements that would be new to the NHL: the creation of an "interview period" for unrestricted free agents, like the NBA.
Besides the Columbus Blue Jackets’ goal, nothing is defended more laxly than the NHL’s policy on tampering. By creating a formal interviewing period prior to the first day of free agency, the NHL would rid itself of the ever-hilarious Mathias Ohlund scenario in which a free agent signs some convoluted and complexly structured contract at 12:05 pm on July 1st,. (*cough* Gonchar *cough*)
Remember the Justin Schultz situation? Magnify that exponentially, put it in some central resort location where teams, agents and players can shop their wares and boom, you have the NHL equivalent to MLB’s Winter Meetings. If hockey could capitalize on creating a summer equivalent, it would do wonders to help market the game and generate interest and excitement in a product that could desperately use some.
• The implementation of a weighted draft lottery expanded to all non-playoff teams.
You can credit this change to the Oilers, just as the first draft lottery revision is routinely credited to the Senators...and with good reason:
"At issue was a story last week in The Ottawa Citizen written by columnist Roy MacGregor. The article contended that after the Senators' final game of the season—a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on April 14 that allowed Ottawa to finish with one victory fewer than the San Jose Sharks and thus clinch the right to draft first—Firestone had cryptically mentioned to MacGregor a secret plan to assure that the Senators would pick No. 1. MacGregor further contended that on June 26, in an off-the-record bull session with four other reporters in a Quebec City nightclub following the draft, he had asked Firestone to elaborate on his remark of 10 weeks earlier. According to MacGregor, Firestone said that the Senators were prepared to pull their goalie to make sure Boston won; that it had been difficult "keeping the restraints" on Bowness over the final weeks of the season; and that Firestone himself had had a plan to guarantee four players roster spots for next season if those players helped assure a loss to the Bruins. "It is no coincidence," MacGregor said Firestone told him, "that those four players will be back with the team next season." None of the other reporters in attendance that night have publicly challenged the gist of MacGregor's account."
Any small move away from rewarding the worst management with the draft's top spoils is a positive one imo.
Amnesty clauses help, but there are some counterpoints. GM's who mortgage the future usually have multiple bad contracts or will make another bad one to counteract any amnesty benefits. Also, teams who take on these contracts are often let off the hook by crap market teams that can't attract free agents. So an under-performing player under contract can often bring back assets and cap relief instead of invoking an amnesty clause on them. And to NBA teams like the Raptors, a rotation player on an overblown contract is better than striking out in free agency with the money saved on a potential amnesty. At the end of the day, most of the changes just help owners pocket more money by allowing the business side of things to grow.
In my mind, the Senators prospect pool, cap space and just-good-enough roster will go further than CBA tweaks for other teams. But as soon as Melnyk thinks they're close, they'll ransack their prospect pool and bottom line with short sighted trades and signings.
"But as soon as Melnyk thinks they're close, they'll ransack their prospect pool and bottom line with short sighted trades and signings."
Nothing wrong with that. It's great that we're all knee-deep in prospect porn, but at some point these players need to deliver at the NHL level, and by "deliver" I mean getting past the first round on a few deep playoff runs. I know we're all in love with Silfverberg and others, but...there are hundreds of human males drafted each year. Each of them knows how to push around a puck to varying degrees of ability. In the end, it's about the parent club and if we have an excess of prospects then dumping some for experienced, playoff-savvy vets shouldn't be frowned on.
I mean, I love that Bingo Sens are doing great but I want the OTTAWA Senators to win a Cup...and how long do I need to wait before I see that happen? I have a feeling Eugene Melnyk is similarly wondering and I wouldn't be surprised to see changes down the road if the team continues to underachieve in the NHL post-season.
Great article by the way.