NHL Lockout: Is the NHL Salary Scale Going to Echo the NBA?

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
NHL Lockout: Is the NHL Salary Scale Going to Echo the NBA?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

Don't expect the NHL's new salary scale to be similar to the one that the NBA and its players agreed to during their lockout last winter, both from a team and player perspective.

Just like the NHL, the NBA uses a salary cap system, which, among other things, helps prevent player salaries from escalating to ridiculous levels.

Even though 15 NBA teams lost money during the 2010-11 season, according to Forbes.com, that wasn't enough to prevent the salary cap floor number from increasing.

Here is an explanation of the NBA's cap from Larry Coon of ESPN.com:

2011 CBA: Teams must spend at least 85 percent of the cap in 2011-12 and 2012-13, and at least 90 percent of the cap in later years of the agreement.

These 85 and 90 percent figures would never work in the current state of the NHL, where there are many teams who would probably be in a much worse financial situation than they are now if the cap floor was this close to the cap ceiling.

If the NHL forced teams to be this close to the cap ceiling in the previous CBA (2005-06 through 2011-12), more than two-thirds of the league's teams probably would have lost money on a yearly basis and player salaries would be much higher than they are now.

A team like the Phoenix Coyotes would not survive financially if the NHL's cap floor was similar to the NBA's.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NHL doesn't generate the same amount of revenue as the NBA does, so it wouldn't be surprising at all if the NHL and NHLPA actually agree to lower the cap floor in their new agreement or get rid of it altogether.

Player salary guidelines weren't completely overhauled in the NBA's most recent CBA, as Coon explains.

2011 CBA: Five years with 7.5 percent raises for Bird free agents; four years with 4.5 percent raises for other players (including all sign-and-trade transactions). The maximum salaries are the same as the 2005 CBA, except players coming off their rookie scale contracts qualify for the 30 percent maximum if they meet certain criteria.

Coon also writes:

2011 CBA: Players coming off their rookie scale contracts can extend for four additional seasons, although the team can designate one player who is eligible for five seasons at the maximum salary. A team can have only one designated player on its roster at any time. All other veterans can extend for four total seasons, which includes the seasons remaining on their current contract.

As you can see, the NBA has term limits. The NHL is also trying to get its players to agree to five-year term limits, but the league is unlikely to have the same success that the NBA did.

Elsa/Getty Images
NBA commissioner David Stern (right) with Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams.

The average NBA salary is higher than the NHL's, so the NBPA could agree to a five-year term limit and still have players with the opportunity to earn close to $100 million in one contract.

For example, Deron Williams agreed to a five-year, $98 million extension with the Brooklyn Nets this summer. Not every player makes as much as Williams, but term limits aren't a huge deal when players can make almost $20 million per season like Williams, but that isn't the case in the NHL.

The gap between the highest earners in the NHL and NBA is substantial.

According to Hoopsworld, Kobe Bryant is the league's highest earner this season with a salary of over $27 million, while Brad Richards' $12 million salary last season was the highest in the NHL, according to Capgeek.

Very few hockey players earn over $10 million per season, so every extra year of guaranteed salary is a huge boost to the NHLPA because average-to-good players aren't likely to earn $5-plus million per season like their NBA counterparts. If the average NHL salary was the same as the NBA's, the NHLPA probably wouldn't oppose term limits as much as they are now.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Brad Richards

Don't expect the NHL's salary scale to echo the NBA's when the new CBA is finalized and the 2012-13 regular seasons commences.

NHL owners have shown multiple times that they are willing to force the players to make salary concessions during labor negotiations rather than do what's necessary to avoid lengthy lockouts.

The NHLPA would love to be paid using the NBA's salary scale, but until the NHL's revenues are closer to what the NBA earns now, this scenario won't become a reality any time soon.

Load More Stories