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Where is The NHL Heading?

July 10, 2012

Hockey, User Submissions

By: Brendan Riley

There was once a time in the NHL when a team could just buy themselves the Stanley Cup.  The NHL was the only major sporting league, besides baseball, without a Salary Cap. After the 2004-2005 lock out, the NHL finally decided to adopt a salary cap. One would think this would stop teams from attempting to just buy a championship, and for a while it did. In the 7 years since the lockout, 7 different teams have won the Stanley Cup. That’s a major improvement from the only 5 teams that won the 10 years prior to adding the cap.

Well my friends, this is about to change.  While the salary cap does not appear to be leaving anytime soon, it doesn’t matter because teams have found a way around it.

The NHL Salary cap allows a team to front load a contract, and add extra years at the end of a contract to even out the average salary. To make matters worse, these contracts that often times last until a guy’s late 30s are only held against a team as long as the player plays. This means if a guy is to retire in the middle of a long term contract the team is not held accountable for those final years of the contract.

For those of you who don’t know how the NHL salary cap works, here is a basic rundown. Only the player’s average salary over the length of a contract goes against the team’s cap each year.  If a player retires during the contract then it immediately comes of the books. This rule has one exception however; if a player is to sign a multiyear deal after the age of 35, then the money will stay on the books regardless of the player’s retirement status.

There is also a Kovalchuk amendment that was put in place to stop teams from adding endless years of contract with virtually no money to cut down on the cap hit. This amendment states that in any contract with the 3 highest paid years above 5.75 million dollars, there will be no less than 1 million dollars against the cap when the player is between ages 36-39. Once the player reaches the age of 40 every year of the contract after that is not used to count the average salary, or cap hit in previous years.

We have seen teams handing out these massive contracts become a major trend in the NHL as of late. Just this off season we have seen Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Quick all sign contracts of over 10 years. This was not the first time this has happened, but it will certainly not be the last.  The moment teams realized they could get away with this, it started a downward spiral. We may not see the effects of this just yet, but trust me when I say, we will soon.  The way I see it, only 2 options exist for the future of the NHL.

For one, there is a chance nothing will be done about it. This would lead to an era I would would like to call: The Salary Cap(ish) Era. This is where the NHL currently is at. There would be a salary cap, but with such an easy way around it teams will exploit it the way they are doing now.  This would send the NHL back in the direction it was prior to the cap.  Only a few teams will win over a long period of time. This option for the average hockey fan doesn’t sound too appealing. If what you want is a league where only a few teams win, and the league is dominated by nothing but teams with multiple stars, then you may as well be an NBA fan.

Option 2 is that the NHL changes the way of their salary cap rules. This would, more than likely, lead to a lockout. While no hockey fan wants to see a lockout, this is one that just may need to happen to keep the NHL competitive on more than a 5 team basis. The fix that would be required here is that rather than count the players average salary against the team’s cap, count the actual salary for every year of the contract in order to prevent teams from front loading multiple contracts and loading their team up with stars.

Sample contract (Legal by NHL cap rules)

Year 1- $11 Million (age 25)

Year 2- $11 Million (age 26)

Year 3- $11 million (age 27)

Year 4- $11 Million (age 28)

Year 5- $11 Million (age 29)

Year 6- $9 Million (age 30)

Year 7- $7 Million (age 31)

Year 8- $5 Million (age 32)

Year 9- $1 Million (age 33)

Year 10- $1 Million (age 34)

Year 11- $1 Million (age 35)

Year 12- $1 Million (age 36)

Year 13- $1 Million (age 37)

Year 14- $1 Million (age 38)

Cap Hit- $5.8 Million.

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  1. My First Blogging Experience | Brendan Riley's Blog - October 2, 2014

    […] to a small sports blog  (called The Farm Club) ran by small group. At the time of my very first blog post, I was pretty excited to have some of my thoughts actually published and put in a place where […]

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