What Is Bettman Doing?

posted on 2004-06-29 at 15:27:22 by Joel Ross

First, here's the link: NY Post Article.

Now, after reading this, it's pretty obvious what perspective this was written from. Yeah, it says Larry Brooks, but it could just as easily be Bob Goodenow, the head of the NHLPA. Basically, it says the union has made every attempt to get a new CBA in place, and the NHL has refused, despite how fair the NHLPA has been.

But put aside the bias in the article, and focus on one paragraph:

Bettman and the league have made it clear to the teams not to expect grandfathering of pre-Sept. 15 contracts into the league's new age. Indeed, as we first reported two full years ago and reconfirmed this weekend, Bettman's plan is to hold a dispersal draft with teams able to protect players who earn up to an aggregate $31M in payroll, with the remainder available to be drafted — and, get this, with the original clubs on the hook for the contracts of both those players selected by other teams and those who might go unclaimed.

I haven't seen this anywhere else. First, the Post pats itself on the back for breaking the story two years ago, but that's a small issue. The biggest part in this paragraph is that the original club will still have to pay the salary of players taken by other teams. Read that again. OK, now one more time. The original club will still have to pay the salary of players taken by other teams. So let's look at the Wings. Between Hatcher, Joseph, Lang, McCarty, and Lidstrom, that would just about be the $31 million. That means the Wings could potentially be paying a guy like Draper to score against them next year.

Now, do I think Bettman could get away with that? No way. He couldn't even get the owners to agree with it, let alone the union. Last year, 6 teams had payrolls under $31 mill. He can't expect every team to get under that number. On another note, the lowest payroll was the Predators. Very impressive for them. Anyway, back to the issue at hand. The NHL had a total payroll of over $1.2 billion dollars. A 31 million cap would leave $930 million dollars to spend - a difference of almost $300 million.

Where does the $300 mill go? You have to have the same number of players, unless we start talking contraction (something I would favor). Let's take another look. There are 20 players per team, and 30 teams. That's 600 players. Now, spread the $300 mill over those 600 players. That's an average paycut of $500,000. Now, players under contract have no incentive to take that, and with a minimum salary, some players can't take that. So yeah, a guy like Lidstrom could take that, and still make $9 mill a season, but what about the guys making less than a million? I think the league will be hard pressed to find enough players who are willing to reduce their salaries to make up that $300 million. So what does that mean? Out with the old, and in with the new. Guys like Yzerman, Hull, and Messier may not be around next year. That definitely helps the salary situation. If a $500,000 player replaces Yzerman, then that's 12 players who don't have to take a cut. But how can a $500,000 player replace Yzerman? The talent pool will get shallower than it's already gotten in the post-expansion era.

NOTE: According to the article, the union has already proposed a reduction for new draftee salaries by that $500,000 (well, $450,000 plus a reduction in signing bonuses).

This time, I'm not offering up solutions for the NHL like I did in the past. Those were rules based solutions. This is a financial crisis. I don't have visibility to all of the details, and can't make an informed decision, other than this: $31 million is too low, and the current system is not sustainable. So I guess we meet up in January (my prediction) someplace in the middle.

Categories: Hockey