NHL Lockout: What the League Should Do Instead of Cancelling Games

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NHL Lockout: What the League Should Do Instead of Cancelling Games
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I was recently bouncing around various media outlets' websites and reading the various poll results. Not many people believe the regular season is going to start on time. In fact, the last time I checked the results from a poll by the Toronto Sun, over 81 percent of respondents believe that the season will not begin before January 1, with the Winter Classic.

Clearly, the fans have lost all hope in the current negotiations.

However, there is still a small contingent that believe that both sides will hunker down and crank out a new CBA. These loyal and faithful fans believe that the loss of the preseason will be the only casualty of the NHL lockout 2012 and that all of our boys overseas will be on the first plane home. Sometimes, people deserve more. Sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

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I mean, seriously, if Gary Bettman wants to continue to compare the NHL to the other major sports in North America, mainly the NFL, then do what Roger Goodell did and get a deal done before regular season games are cancelled. 

Just because popular belief is that the NHL isn't going to start on time, with many fans believing it will be a very late start indeed if there is even a season at all, doesn't give Bettman the right to follow through and start hacking games off of the schedule.

We all know that the league is upset with the stubborn stance the NHLPA has taken and that the NHL firmly believes it is the PA's turn to present a new proposal. According to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the players are not negotiating in good taste. Well, maybe that's because the NHL low-balled the crap out of them with their initial offer. I think the players have the right to be a little bit ticked by that.

However, that's not to say that the Donald Fehr and the players association are in the clear in this situation either.

Did the players get destroyed in the last CBA negotiations? Absolutely.

Does that mean that they need to make a statement this time around? Absolutely not.

We get it. You don't want to get roughed up again and head into the season with your tail tucked between your legs. Understandable. But why can't a deal just be made that is fair? Making a few concessions for the better of the game? For us, the fans?

Here is my proposal to the NHL and NHLPA. Well, it's more of a rough sketch.

Contracts are an issue. The front loading does bother me the way salaries go from $10 million at the beginning to $1 million at the end. And seriously, 15-year deals? Players signing until they are 45? That is asinine in my opinion.

I propose they cap the term at eight years (it's more than long enough), and instead of having an entirely uniform salary, the first year can be however high you want, but the rest of the term must be equal. For example, a player could sign an eight-year deal worth $52 million, and the breakdown would be $10 million in year one and $6 million in years two through seven.

Cap hit would be distributed the way it is currently, or was, which in this case, would be $6.5 million. Eliminate signing bonuses; the first year of their contract is their signing bonus season. Also, if a player retires, no matter when the deal is signed, his contract stays on the books. That way, owners and GM's will have to look much harder at handing out an eight-year deal to anyone around 30. This time, if they screw it up, it will be entirely on them.

Now to the meat and potatoes. 

First, the definition of hockey-related revenue stays exactly the same. No need for the NHL and owners to take anything out of the pie and make these percentages anymore screwed up than they already are.

Second, sign a long deal. Not this five or six years crap. Sign a 10-12 year deal.

Third, the players don't want any rollbacks. I agree. The owners and GM's made their bed. They should sleep in it. This season moves forward with the projected $70.2 million (courtesy of CapGeek.com) or 57 percent of hockey-related revenue. However, next season, the salary cap will remain at $70.2 million. By my calculations, this should save around $150 million league-wide. This is the biggest part of the concession I think will need to be made by the players.

At the rate the NHL has been growing, it will be as though the players were reduced to approximately 52 percent of hockey-related revenue for the 2013-14 season. A big blow? Yes. But the players are about to get a big bump. The salary cap would then revert back up to 54 percent of hockey-related revenue for the 2014-15 season based off of the 2013-14 season.

Again, these are estimates based off previous league revenues, but that would put the projected salary cap around $78.6 million for the summer of 2014.

For the remainder of the CBA, it drops evenly every year, "dwindling" to a 50/50 split. This is why I expect the players would choose to do a longer deal so that they can hang on to their share longer. 

Also half of the money that the players give up from 57 percent to whatever their current percentage is would be put toward a league revenue sharing pot. That way when the cap jumps up again, there will be sufficient funds available to put towards teams in the red.

Perhaps 40 percent going to the bottom third, 30 percent to the middle third and 20 percent to the top third, but that's just me spitballing. I don't know how those numbers would play out, but you get my drift. Either way, the owners are making more than they were before.

Technically, the PA should too, because then their brethren playing for smaller-market teams should receive a bigger check from the teams floating around the cap floor. Also, the cap floor should be a percentage of the cap max, not a solid number.

I would say that the 50/50 split would not be up for negotiation during the next CBA, but that's a farce.

Entry-level contracts stay the same. The NHL doesn't get to extend this. Nor do they get to tamper with UFA/RFA status or rights. If they want those types of things, they will have to wait until the next CBA negotiations. 

If the league is healthy and continues growing strong, I see no reason why a deal like this can't be reached. It is a fair deal. Both sides stand to make a lot of money. There will be no rollbacks. No one loses. Everyone gains. Especially the fans.

Sometimes, the fans deserve more. Sometimes, the fans deserve to have their faith rewarded.

 

If you like, Follow me on Twitter @ScottyHuck

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