Do Big Market Teams Have an Unfair Advantage in the NHL?

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Do Big Market Teams Have an Unfair Advantage in the NHL?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The rumours we have heard all season long suggest that Cristobal Huet is going to be buried in the minors so that the Chicago Blackhawks can stay under the salary cap.

This is an interesting conundrum. After all, if Chicago sends him to the AHL, they magically get $5.625 million in cap space.

The point of the salary cap was to discourage this. NHL GMs in the past paid ludicrous sums of money to free agents, and then we saw two-thirds of the league on the verge of bankruptcy. So this was supposed to slow down the free-spending ways.

With the CBA that created the salary cap, several loopholes were created.

For instance, the long-term contract we all know and hate. If the NHLPA beats the NHL and Kovalchuk gets his contract, then once again the big market teams can spend like crazy. Of course, this will cause teams to go on the verge of bankruptcy again (see Phoenix Coyotes). 

However, another major loophole that is often ignored is the sending players to the minors. This means they are do not count against the salary cap at all. So far, we have not seen teams send a player earning a lot of money down to the minors.

That will most likely change this year.

The first player that people expect will be sent down is Wade Redden. It is almost a unanimous agreement that he has the worst contract in the entire NHL. Many people expect the Rangers to send him down because he is not that good and they can spend money on other players.

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The second player people expect will be sent down is Cristobal Huet. He is pretty bad as a goaltender, probably because he placed himself in a false position as a starter. He would make a solid backup, but paying $5.625 million in cap hit to be a backup is just crazy, not to mention all the cap issues the Blackhawks are having. So expect him to be sent down as well.

The one good thing about this is that, until waivers are started, which is a bit after free agency starts, you cannot get the player off your cap hit. So, that offending player will count during the first part of free agency when most major players sign.

Apparently, someone forgot to send that memo to Ilya Kovalchuk. So this makes it better than the long-term contract loophole, but not by much.

In all fairness, the CBA expires after this year. Although I don't want another lockout, they are probably going to have to modify the CBA so that players cannot demand crazy money on long-term contracts.

I hope they get it done soon, as these loopholes give big market teams an unfair advantage. This coming from a Leafs fan.

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