NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman claims the league is paying its players too much and seeks to change the rules regarding contracts and salaries, while at the same time, teams are rushing to sign talent before the current CBA expires.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently claimed, “We believe we’re paying the players more than we should”.
The ‘we’ in that sentence, of course, refers to the NHL team owners, who are apparently unhappy their current CBA – the most restrictive among the four major North American pro sports, which they forced upon the NHLPA seven years ago – still pays the players too much.
In its initial proposal, the league not only sought to reduce the players share of revenue from 57 percent down to 43 percent, but also five year term limits on contracts.
It’s difficult, however, to accept the league’s position at face value when the owners continue to sign players to expensive, long-term contracts in the midst of CBA negotiations.
The most notable example, of course, was the Minnesota Wild signing free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts.
Ordinarily, this would be considered quite the coup by the Wild, a club not known for making such expensive forays into the UFA market, successfully wooing this summer’s two best free agents.
No one should begrudge the Wild signing Parise and Suter to those contracts. Their front office deemed it was worth the price to improve their club, and they were operating under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement. They saw an opportunity to land a couple of “hometown stars”, were willing to pay the big bucks to get them, and will now live with the consequences of those signings, good or bad.
What makes those moves galling, however, was Wild owner Craig Leipold, only three months earlier, decrying his club’s biggest expense was players salaries and calling for the system to be fixed.
Leipold subsequently attempted to justify these signings in the wake of his earlier remarks, but few bought into his explanation.
The Wild weren’t the only team to willingly sign free agents to expensive deals in excess of five years this summer.
On July 19th, the Philadelphia Flyers shocked the hockey world by signing Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet.
What’s notable about that offer sheet – apart from the term and dollars – is it came only five days after the NHL made its initial CBA proposal. Guess the Flyers management didn’t get the memo about the league paying its players too much for too long.
Under the rules of the current CBA, the Flyers were well within their rights to make that offer to Weber. The problem arises from the hypocrisy of making that pitch less than a week following the league’s initial CBA proposal, which sought to impose term limits on contracts.
How about the Tampa Bay Lightning signing Matt Carle to a six-year, $33 million contract, or the Vancouver Canucks inking Jason Garrison – he of the 2 1/2 NHL seasons – to a six-year deal, which saw his salary climb from $880K last season to a front-loaded contract with an average cap hit of $4.6 million?
Again, those teams can spend whatever they like on whoever they like under this CBA, but doesn’t it seem a tad hypocritical of them to make those signings whilst part of a group claiming to be paying too much for salaries and demanding term limits?
The hypocrisy wasn’t limited to unrestricted free agent signings or offer sheets. Check out some of this summer’s notable restricted free agent signings:
Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall – seven years, $42 million.
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty – six years, $27 million. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price – six years, $39 million.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner – six years, $34.350 million.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell (six years, $28.5 million) and forward Wayne Simmonds (six years, $23.850 million).
The issue here isn’t if they’re worth those dollars and terms, but rather, how the owners of those teams can justify those contracts when they’re pushing for term limits and claiming they’re paying too much in salaries.
The owners of the aforementioned clubs won’t be called into account or asked to explain their clubs respective actions. Most will either ignore the criticims, or blithely explain it away as the cost of doing business under a “broken system”.
It’s the same bullshit that was espoused leading up to the last lockout. And rest assured, we’ll hear it again when the next CBA is due to expire.