NHL Lockout: Does MLB Have It Right with No Salary Cap?

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NHL Lockout: Does MLB Have It Right with No Salary Cap?
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Donald Fehr (left) with MLB commissioner Bud Selig.

The salary cap has been an often-debated topic among NHL fans for the last seven years, but it's important to realize that the system currently in place is the best one for hockey.

When Donald Fehr took over as executive director of the NHLPA two years ago, some people wondered if he would convince the players to challenge the salary cap when the CBA expired—something he was very successful in keeping out of baseball during his lengthy tenure as the head of the MLBPA.

Has the salary cap helped or hurt the NHL?

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Major League Baseball is the only major North American sports league without a salary cap. The NBA, NFL and NHL all use some form of a salary cap system, and the results for all three leagues have been quite impressive.

The NFL is earning revenue of over $9 billion per year, the NBA is arguably as poplar as its ever been in the post-Michael Jordan era and the NHL's revenue is now over $3 billion.

It's clear that a salary cap is allowing these sports to earn fantastic revenues, and in the NFL and NHL's case, the level of parity has been impressive.

Without a salary cap in baseball, it's incredibly challenging for small-market teams, or ones with a low payroll to win the World Series.

There has been a good amount of parity in baseball recently, with 10 different World Series winners in the last 13 years, but since 2000, only one team with an opening day payroll in the bottom half of the league has won the Fall Classic (2003 Florida Marlins).

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The New York Yankees' high payroll has helped them field a championship contender for many years.

The only hope for small-market teams that cannot afford to have a high payroll is to draft incredibly well and make the right decisions on veteran, low-risk/high-reward free agents.

The Colorado Rockies in 2007 and Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 were two teams who followed this model to build a World Series caliber team, but they weren't able to defeat the high-spending Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, respectively.

These teams were not able to keep some of their star players long-term. The Rockies couldn't keep Matt Holliday, who they traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2008. He signed a seven-year, $120 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010. The Rays failed to keep Carl Crawford long term, who signed a seven-year, $140 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2010.

Even though baseball has a good revenue-sharing program, it hasn't resulted in many small-market teams being able to build contending rosters for more than just a year or two. If baseball had a salary cap, the playing field would be a bit more level, and teams that don't have tons of cash to use in free agency would have a stronger chance to contend.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The salary cap prevented the Chicago Blackhawks from keeping their Stanley Cup team intact.

Getting rid of the salary cap would be the final blow to NHL teams that are not only struggling to compete on the ice, but also make money off of it.

The NHL has been fortunate enough to see 29-of-30 teams make the playoffs following the salary cap's creation, and the successes of small-market teams such as the Phoenix Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators and most recently the Florida Panthers, have been beneficial to the league.

It's hard to imagine these teams being able to contend without a salary cap. If there was no cap, these teams wouldn't be able to hold onto their prized free agents who are critical to the on-and-off ice success of the franchise.

Without a cap, the Philadelphia Flyers probably would have offered Predators defenseman Shea Weber even more than the $110 million he was presented with during the offseason. If Nashville had lost both Weber and Ryan Suter (who signed with the Minnesota Wild in July) to free agency, the team would be struggling to stay afloat in a very competitive conference. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Shea Weber

No salary cap would allow player salaries to rise to unbelievable levels, which may be good for the NHLPA, but not for the game as a whole.

Baseball doesn't have it right with a salary cap. Too many franchises are at a disadvantage when the rich teams are free to spend whatever they want to field a competitive team.

The NHL lost a season for a salary cap to give every team a fair chance to win a Stanley Cup, and after seven years, it's clear that the cap should remain a part of hockey.

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