NHL Lockout: Why the Players Cannot Put the Salary Cap on the Table

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NHL Lockout: Why the Players Cannot Put the Salary Cap on the Table
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Putting the salary cap on the bargaining table would ensure that the 2012-13 NHL season doesn't happen, so it's important that the players don't fight this battle again because they will lose for a second straight time.

Former NHLPA leader Bob Goodenow was adamant early in the previous lockout that he wouldn't accept a salary cap, but in the end, his players had no choice but to accept it. A similar outcome is guaranteed to happen if this battle went another round.

Not only are owners of rich, large-market teams in favor of the cap, it's hard to imagine any owner of a small-market team accepting a new CBA that includes the removal of the cap system.

Another battle over the salary cap would never end well for the players because removing the current system would ultimately destroy the small-market teams.

The absence of a salary cap could easily result in some teams needing to be contracted, unless the revenue-sharing system is completely overhauled to help the teams that cannot spend as much as the large-market clubs. Contraction means less teams, which would result in the loss of jobs for many players.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

Since the 2005-06 season, the cap has impacted the league and the players in several positive ways.

From a team standpoint, the cap helped increase the amount of parity in the NHL. Following the 2005 lockout, 29 out of the league's 30 teams have made a playoff appearance. Only the Leafs have failed to make the playoffs since the lockout.

Despite their strong effort to prevent the cap from being implemented, the players ended up being one of the biggest winners of the cap system.

As the league's revenues soared to unforeseen heights under the previous CBA, player salaries also climbed to a new level because the players' share of hockey-related revenues was at 57 percent.

As I've explained numerous times in recent weeks, the owners want the players to have a much lower percentage of HRR in the next agreement, which would bring the cap down (via TSN's Darren Dreger) and result in player salaries decreasing.

The battle involving the salary cap in the current labor dispute shouldn't be over the system's existence, it needs to be about how much the cap ceiling will go up or down.

There's no question that the NHL players are being led by a man in Donald Fehr, who has great experience in dealing with labor negotiations involving salary cap issues.

However, the players know they can't go after the salary cap, even if the negotiations reach the point of frustration. The players may want to fight the cap system, but they are too smart to go through that process again.

Should the players put the salary cap back on the table?

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Another prolonged fight over the salary cap won't scare the owners, and would only make the labor negotiations far worse because the owners will never get rid of the cap.

The players have the option of putting the salary cap back on the bargaining table, and the possibility of opposing it could be discussed at some point in union meetings. But actually going through with the plan and losing one or two seasons because of a labor dispute just isn't worth it the time and frustration.

The players aren't foolish enough to put it back on the bargaining table and risk that the current lockout lasts much longer than it needs to.

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.

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