Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter recently became one of the many players during the current NHL lockout to explain his desire to receive the full value of his current contract throughout the next CBA.
Suter talked about player contracts in a recent interview with ESPN.com's Craig Custance, and it's hard to disagree with what he said.
"...Now, they're trying to go back on their word. It's frustrating, disappointing. It doesn't seem like that's the way you operate a relationship or business."
More from Custance's interview:
"It's disappointing. If you can't afford to (sign contracts) then you shouldn't do it," Suter said. "(Leipold) signed us to contracts. At the time he said everything was fine. Yeah, it's disappointing. A couple months before, everything is fine, and now they want to take money out of our contracts that we already signed."
It's very interesting that instead of criticizing the league as a whole, or commissioner Gary Bettman directly, Suter spoke about his team's owner, Craig Leipold. This proves that the players feel strongly enough about this issue to actually call out the people who sign their checks.
The most interesting quote from Custance's article—for me anyway—was when Suter said, "It's disappointing. If you can't afford to (sign contracts) then you shouldn't do it."
This statement is exactly why people have very little sympathy for the owners who signed players to enormous contracts that they probably couldn't afford and are now crying poor.
A lockout cannot serve as a "get out of jail free card" to owners who signed players to contracts that hurt the financial health of their franchise. It's unfair to call players like Suter greedy when this is an issue of principal more than a financial one.
A league that earned record revenues last year and is seeing its business grow at an impressive rate shouldn't ask its employees (in this case, the players) to take a second pay cut in seven years.
The owners need to take responsibility for the contracts they signed during the previous CBA. If they truly believe that the players will accept a salary reduction on their existing contracts, or sacrifice future salary growth to ensure that their current contracts aren't reduced in the next CBA, then hockey fans will not see NHL action this season.
The NHLPA isn't going to budge on this issue, and if the league refuses to maintain the full value of existing contracts in a way that the players like, this lockout could last a very long time.
The only way that the owners are going to learn from their mistakes is to make them deal with the contracts that they already signed.
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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