Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Game On!

The NHL owners had to break the NHLPA to do it, but there will be hockey in October!

According to CBC, it looks like a union-busting deal:

Although the union and league are not commenting on the deal, the agreement reportedly includes:

--the union holding the right to re-open negotiations on the six-year contract after the fourth year.

--a 24 per-cent salary rollback on all existing player contracts.

--a team-by-team salary cap with a payroll of range of $21.5 million to $39 million US (in the first year), based on projected revenues of $1.8 billion.

--no player can earn more than 20 per cent of the team cap. For 2005-06, this means no player can earn more than $7.4 million.

--the league's total expenditure on player costs can't exceed 54 per cent of defined hockey-related revenue. Also, the salary cap and payroll range will increase or decrease as revenues rise or fall each year of the deal.

--a percentage of salaries will be put into escrow until the new salary cap can be calculated at the end of each season.

--an entry-level system with a rookie salary cap of $850,000 US. Players entering the league will now qualify for unrestricted free agency after seven years.

--the age of unrestricted free agency remains 31 but will brought down to 27 by the end of 2007-2008 season.

--teams will be able to buy players out of their contracts at two thirds of their value if they need help to fit under the cap. Clubs, however, won't be able to re-sign those players.

--a revenue-sharing scheme where the top 10 money-making clubs contribute to a fund shared by the bottom 10 teams.

--two-way salary arbitration where the players and owners both have the power to go to arbitration. Only the players had that right in the previous deal.

--NHL participation at the 2006 Torino Olympics.

The union couldn't hold against a salary cap forever, and they could have had one in January or February at $42-$45 million. Now they're stuck with $39 million. Without U.S. TV revenues after ESPN bailed out on them, and lagging ticket sales in the weakest U.S. markets, that 54% is going to come out of much small revenues.

The rookie salary cap of $850,000 has everyone asking if Sidney Crosby will take off for a multi-million European contract. For that matter, how many European players might also decide an immediate 24% rollback and a floating cap might make the NHL not worth their while?

If European leagues up the salary ante and talent leaves the NHL, it'll redefine European hockey as no longer being the poor cousin to the NHL. The NHL will just be one top league among several, as exists in soccer.

It's going to be a very different league in October.


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