This is a topic that I had been hoping would be cleared up a long, long time ago which is why I have refrained from talking about it too much. Unfortunately, I simply cannot ignore it anymore as the National Hockey League lockout is threatening to cancel yet another season because the two sides have failed to bring a Collective Bargaining Agreement that can withstand what has been a sport growing in popularity.
People all over the hockey world may have differing opinions on who is to blame for this particular lockout; I firmly believe that both sides are at fault in this situation but based on the updates and negotiations that have been reported, it appears as if the Owners side must take more of the blame. The biggest issue that I have with one of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations is the fact that the owners want to reduce the players salaries yet again. It would be one thing if through time the game was not gaining revenue and struggling to make ends meet. But this is a league that has not has been touting its record 3.3 billion dollar revenue last season in our face for the last year, signing star players to mega deals, and trying to squeeze in as many deals before the CBA expired as possible. I have no problem with this being a part of the deal that the players absolutely say no to. When you sign a guaranteed contract, a few days later your employer should not force you to take a pay cut immediately. The players should be guaranteed whatever contract they have signed up to this point because the owners had to sign off on every single one of them in the first place. If Craig Leopold did not want to pay Zach Parise and Ryan Suter a boat load of money, then he shouldn’t have personally offered them the deals. This issue goes to the players because the owners brought that down on themselves.
The next issue that needs to be looked at is the revenue split. Because of the way the revenue is structured, the reasoning behind the Owners trying to bring down the players salaries is to get the salary cap lowered. Part of this seems like a logical idea, the salary cap should never be higher than around 60 million. In my opinion the salary cap needs to be structured a little like baseball in that there is a luxury tax for teams that want to spend over a certain limit. There should be a cap “limit” of around 58 million dollars and teams that go over must pay a large amount of money to the lower revenue teams. This would also help solve a little of the revenue sharing problem which is extremely complicated to understand how that all works. Teams a few years ago were barely spending 30 million dollars, now they are expected to spend up over 50 million in most cases, and still hope to make a profit. The NHL needs to lower the salary cap and have a transitional year which has been discussed where salaries can go over the limit with no penalty. Teams would find a way to get under the salary cap and if they cannot then they will pay a luxury tax.
The salary cap coincides with the revenue split which at the end of the last deal it was 57% for the players meaning the owners only received 43% of the revenue. This obviously is unfair to the owners and ultimately the revenue should be an even 50-50 split. I liked the NHLPA’s idea of having the revenue bump down based on profits. This means that if the NHL gains a certain amount in revenue increase, then the players share will get smaller and smaller until it finally gets to 50-50. There have been talks of the split going from 56-44 to 54-46 to 52-48 and finally to 50-50 with many variations of that. The owners are looking for something much quicker.
The deal that I believes solves this lockout lies somewhere in between all of these negotiations. Apart from the “make-whole” provision which I think should be scraped entirely, the length of contract arguments because ultimately I think the owners could control that without making it a rule (the owners could just not offer any of these crazy deals), and some of the other minor details; the deal that should get the NHL playing hockey again looks something like this:
53-47% revenue split for the first year and a 50-50 revenue split for the second year until the expiration of the deal.
No contract limits officially; no owner is forced to sign a fifteen year deal. (if a team wants to sign a young player like a Steven Stamkos to a ten year deal, then they should be able to)
Get rid of re-entry waivers (I think that both sides have liked this idea); also not allowing teams to bury salary in the minors to get it off the cap.
No absolute reduction in pay for the players.
Salary cap upper limit at $58 million with a luxury tax based on how high over the limit a team spends and a lower limit of $42 million dollars.
Make the players wait an extra year until they are eligible for unrestricted free agency meaning a player must be at least 28 years old or have 8 years of NHL experience to be eligible-The owners should be able to hold on to the players that they draft a little longer.
Contracts must be the equivalent salary throughout-I hate all of these front loaded contracts that try to make a cap hit lower, the deals in this CBA will have the same salary cap hit as the player is getting paid. No more up front bonuses, which the owners should like, but the players should like the fact that they will be paid the same amount every year of their deal.
The length of this deal will be 6 years with an option year as a 7th. The league needs a lengthy deal because the fans deserve to have stability for once in the last 20 years.
Other minor details can be added to the deal but these seem to be the big points of this years lockout. Again my thoughts on this are that I am completely shocked that we are in December and without hockey, however, I feel that the issues in this lockout are small enough to overcome. If the entire season is lost, then hockey is probably never going to be recognized as a major sport ever again, and they will be lucky if they even make it back at all. The momentum that has already been lost is huge and will be hard to regain but it can be done if a deal is reached quickly. Hopefully the players/owners meeting on Tuesday will have some positive results that lead to a deal being reached. I believe that this is a fair deal lined up and if the owners and players could just take a look at it (maybe some of you guys can tweet this article to the big boys), then we should be playing hockey in a couple of weeks.