(The Senators actual salary outlay vs the cap floor and ceiling)
Elliotte Friedman is joining Graeme on the podcast tonight, which is timely as it just so happens last week's 30 Thoughts touched on something I'd been meaning to write about:
"The commish has three groups of owners: the ones who want to play; the ones in the middle, including Tampa and Nashville, who want a better collective bargaining agreement but recognize not playing is worse; and the hardliners. It would be a mistake to underestimate the last group. There are several who would rather cancel the season than accept a bad deal because they are hemorrhaging money and need immediate satisfaction.
While the players believe Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is calling the shots, an educated guess at the final group includes but may not be limited to Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, the Islanders, Phoenix, St. Louis, Washington and Dallas -- enough to block any agreement from getting done (It's tough to lock it down because owners are forbidden to discuss this stuff. Attempts to talk to a couple were politely shot down)."
On Friday, Elliotte appeared on PTS and elaborated on how large the "hardliners" may be:
"Bob, I would say I wrote a blog this week where I named eight teams that I think would cancel the season rather than get a bad deal. And I had an owner reach out to me and tell me I was being too conservative."
In June, this is what Cyril Leeder had to say in an interview with Steve Lloyd on the subject of the CBA, and specifically the cap floor:
Lloyd: We don't anticpate a drastic system change with the next CBA negotiations.
Leeder: Let's hope not.
Lloyd: So let's be positive here. Give us reasons Cyril, why you think we could be starting on time in the fall here?
Leeder: The real reason for optimism is that you know we've really got a good thing going here right now. I think the players would agree - the average income is over 2.5 or 2.6 million dollars. That's the highest its ever been. We don't need a brand new economic model like we needed in 2004, really the business of hockey was broken back then. And that really needed to be put back together. There are some adjustments that need to be done now, but I think calmer heads and cooler heads and reasonable people should be able to agree on that and get that done without too much hissing and fussing this time around.
Lloyd: Alright, I won't pick it to death, I just got one more for you here. Is the salary cap floor an issue? Is that gonna be a big issue for a lot of teams to get to that floor?
Leeder: Well, I guess it will really depend on what the floor is. But..umm...it's becoming more of an issue I think now, certainly for teams like ourselves when you're staring at a floor that could be in the 55 million dollar range than that really becomes an issue. That's a minimum spend. For your listeners, the floor means you gotta spend at least x on players. And when the initial agreement came in the floor was 23 million seven years ago, now it's gonna be more than double that - closer to 55 million. So, you're getting closer to an issue for many teams.
If you'd asked me to place the Senators into one of the aforementioned three groups after these comments I'd have felt strongly they were in the "want a better collective bargaining agreement but recognize not playing is worse" camp, with possibily some hardliner sympathies.
Since that time it's hard to mistake the impression the organization wants to play badly. Here's Leeder on a season seat-holder conference call in October:
“What we’re trying to do the best we can is provide feedback back to the league … and they understand what the mood is here in our community. What we’ve been telling them is our fans are not in the same spot they were seven years ago. They’re not going to put up with a long lockout. We’re encouraging the league to try to make a deal as quickly as possible.”
And finally, Melnyk's comments of less than a week ago that prompted a call, presumably of the chastising variety from the NHL:
"Back in '94, I was a rabid baseball fan, I'm talking like a 40-45 game guy when I still lived in Toronto, I saw the World Series and (the Blue Jays) winning it, went to Atlanta; I was a crazy, crazy baseball fan and after the strike I was gone, (I'm) extremely disappointed like any fan of where we are, we should be playing hockey by now."
Now how much of this to buy as earnest conviction, and how much is an effort to emote with us lowly fans I'm not sure. Still, compared to other NHL clubs, the Senators at least by their recent public comments sound like they're pretty damn close to having two feet in the 'wanting to play' camp. The one constant principle that's animated the Senators in the Melnyk era has been -- what are we doing to remain competitive while Alfie's still here? In player costs the Senators were the highest spending team in the league in 09/10 paying out 65M$ (115% of the cap), and I don't imagine Eugene is eager to get back to those days. Nevertheless, it looks to me like he and the organization have felt strongly for some time that it's better to be playing games, rather than continuing to waste those which may be the captain's last.