Yesterday NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sent ripples through the hockey community for announcing what everybody already knew - if there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) when the current one expires on September 15, there will be a lockout.

Apparently, the owners feel that the CBA they essentially starved the players into signing in 2005 - the same one that has earned the owners somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion dollars over these 7 years - is unacceptable.

What's the holdup?

The main thing is going to be revenue sharing. The owners forced the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) to choke down a 25% salary rollback and a 57% cut of the revenue pie. The owners have now decided that was too generous. Their initial offer was another 25% rollback, this time to a 42% share.

When you buy a house, you look at the asking price, then you decide what you actually want to pay. Then you make your initial offer symmetrical - in other words, if you want to pay $10,000 less than asking, you start at $20,000. Eventually, you usually wind up splitting the difference. So, the NHLPA should just come back with a counter proposal of 50%, they shake hands, light cragars and call it a day, right? Easy peasy and all that.

Well...here's where it gets sticky.

First, the NHLPA now has Donald Fehr sitting on their side of the bargaining table. The guy's a pitbull. There's no way he's going to accept any sort of cut in the players' revenue share. At least not without getting something in return.

So, what sort of things could he ask for?

  • Broadening of the revenue base - That is to say, take teams that aren't making money (Sorry, Glendale) and put them into places where they will (Congratulations, Quebec City).
  • Expansion to 32 teams. Congratulations may be in order for Markham, Ontario and Seattle here. Both places are building new arenas, and both would love to get at least 41 nights booked for hockey.
  • No limitations on contracts. Here's what's funny about the CBA. While everyone's focusing on revenue, this is the area where NHL owners managed to castrate their own bull. They locked out the league for an entire season, and then eventually found ways to circumvent their own deals - by putting throwaway years on the end of contracts in order to lower the cap hit, which is based on annual average. That's how Shea Weber can make $20 million this year and next and still have a cap hit of under $8 million. Word is that owners are going to want to limit player contracts to 5 years. Personally, I think it's bullshit. Does anyone honestly believe that Rocky Wirtz isn't going to want to give Jonathan Toews a lifetime deal when his paper comes up in 2015? But it's still a concession the owners can make that they've always wanted to make anyway. Fehr is also going to want to make damn sure that the throwaway years stay in there as well.

Now then - since this is a Blackhawks' site, let's ask...what does this mean for the Blackhawks?

For starters, Rocky Wirtz (actually, his accountants) will continue being creative in hiding profits. Less money to funnel into the league's coffers. Which shows you just how much sanctity the owners have in the CBA.

If there's a reduction in the players' share of revenue (you can pretty much count on it), that means the current $70 million cap number is going to come down. Let's ballpark the new players' share at 50-52%, since that's probably where it's going to wind up. So that's roughly a 10% reduction. That puts the salary cap at $63 million, and...will you look at that? The Blackhawks' salary for the upcoming season is $62.5 million. If the new cap number actually comes in at $63, I want everyone who has bitched Stan Bowman out for standing pat to line up on Madison St. and kiss his ass on the Opening Night red carpet.

So the  owners are talking tough, and the NHLPA will offer its counterproposal on Tuesday. This dance is still in the first few measures. At this point, it's still too hard to say if we're going to lose any hockey or not.

But there's a reason that we haven't put up details about the 50 seats we have for Opening Night yet.


What did you think of this article?

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  • 8/11/2012 4:57 PM rich wrote:
    1st time reader a great article look forward to reading more ! THANKS !
    Reply to this
  • 8/12/2012 2:37 AM Fro Dog wrote:
    There's a rumor running rampid that there will be a lockout unless I get on a Puckcast before September 15th. The ball is in your court.
    Reply to this
  • 8/12/2012 12:22 PM Smokinmedic wrote:
    So, if the revenue sharing is reduced and the cap goes down, will all teams have to be compliant before this season starts? That is gonna suck for teams that have signed huge multi year big $$$ contracts this summer. Do you think there will be a grace period for teams to get under the cap? If not, teams like Boston, Minnesota, Vancouver and Calgary are going to have a real issue. Would they have to shed salary to get under the cap?
    Sorry for all the questions, I am still trying to wrap my head around all this CBA crap. I thought I wouldn't have to do this again after 2005.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/13/2012 7:54 AM Forklift wrote:
      I think there are a couple of possible (or even likely) outcomes.

      1) There will almost certainly be a buyout amnesty, allowing teams to buy out one contract with no cap hit. This could allow a team like Boston to buy out Tim Thomas and alleviate their cap situation.

      2) An NBA-style luxury tax, allowing teams to go over the Cap if they're willing to pay. This could allow a team like the Rangers to outspend everyone. As we've seen them win one Cup in 72 years, they can spend all they want.

      Hope this helps.

      Reply to this

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