The NHL labor war could get very, very interesting in the next few days.
Many fans have taken a "wake me when it’s over" stance on the lockout as it drags on into the holiday season, but the latest tidbit may snap then back to attention: The NHL may seek to void every existing NHL contract.
If your first response to that is, “so what?” let that one marinate for a bit.
Every contract would be voided, meaning that every player in the NHL would essentially become an unrestricted free agent.
This stunning move was put forth in section 14 of the NHL’s recent class action suit that was brought after the NHLPA executive board announced that authorizing of the rank and file to vote on a disclaimer of interest, basically a dissolution of the union. The suit states:
If the NHLPA's decertification or disclaimer were not deemed invalid by the NLRB, and the collective bargaining relationship between the parties were not otherwise to continue, all existing contracts between NHL players and NHL teams (known as Standard Player's Contracts or "SPCs") would be void and unenforceable.
Think about that—every player in the NHL would have no contract. If you thought NHL general managers were out of control with their offers last season when there were only a handful of free agents, imagine how they would act when every player in the league hit the open market.
It’s hard to imagine the NHL following through with this threat.
The idea may be that the thought of having their contracts voided would scare the players, but it may do just the opposite, at least for the bigger name players. Do you think Sidney Crosby will be worried if his contract is voided? Hardly. If anything he would get a huge raise.
On the other hand, the middle of the pack and lower rung players would lose.
In a salary cap world, only so many players can bring home the big bucks. In that respect, the threat may work, as many players may fear their salaries would drop so the NHL GM’s could sign the big stars to huge deals.
And what about the players like Rick DiPietro who have long term deals but haven’t lived up to those contracts? Voiding all contracts means those players are basically forced to start over again, not something someone with guaranteed money wants to think about.
Like I said, I doubt this threat will be acted on, but if it is, I for one cannot wait to see what the fallout would be and how insane the contract offers would be for the league’s top players.