Fixing the NHL's Cap

Mel ToliaoCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2008

Now that the NHL's free agent season is a couple days underway, everyone is amazed at how much the league has regressed in terms of contracts. It seems like we've taken a step back in terms of getting players signed at a reasonable price. Some say the players are overpaid again, some say the owners and GM's are out of their minds and as always, Brian Burke is blaming Kevin Lowe.

I've always believed that the players deserve their fair share of revenues. Even if the players were to make $200,000 a year, the league would still make $2 billion in revenue which just goes to the owners. The hard cap that the NHL opted for during the lockout was the perfect solution to this. It ensures that each team can spend to an upper limit so that no team should be able to outspend any other and guarantees that a team must spend to a lower limit so that it would reduce an owners ability to not give out any large contracts and just make tons of money.

The problem is that any player in the league can earn up to 20% of the teams total salary cap. This year a player can be paid $11.3 million of a teams $56.7 million cap. The hope was that teams wouldn't spend up to this limit on players because of the possible ramifications. If you spend 20% on one player, then how do you find enough money to get quality role players to help this one superstar? Gretzky was surrounded by Hall of Famers on every team he played for - the 1980's Oilers, Robitaille in LA, Hull, Oates and MacInnis in STL, Messier and Leetch in NY - and was only able to win Cups in Edmonton. The reason GM's aren't laying off is that for highly coveted talent, money is seen as one of the few ways to get an edge on a rival GM. Of course what we are finding is that money isn't everything, or else Sundin would be in Vancouver and Hossa would be in Edmonton right now.

If you adjust the amount any one player can receive from 20% to say 15% of the salary cap, the most a player could make in this season is $8.5 million which I think everyone would say is a reasonable figure for the top players in the league. Now this means that the salaries for role players would get inflated a bit because GM's would have an extra $3 million to sign players with, but I think moving forward, i'd rather have a team that has a somewhat balanced payroll than one that has 1 guy making a ton and the rest getting the scraps from the table.