The New Jersey Devils are one of the most respected professional sports franchises in North America.
They have solid ownership, own their own arena and a dedicated fan base that stretches pass the state limits of New Jersey.
They have quality people who run the day-to-day affairs of the the hockey club, they also have some great athletes who preform on one of North Americas biggest sports stages.
But how could an organization, especially one that is held with such high regard, be so handcuffed by one of professional sports newest and established systems? The Salary Cap.
The NHL has now lived in the "Cap world" since 2005.
Maybe it should be called "Hangman."
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a massive document, and one that is quite difficult to understand from time to time, so teams like the Devils employ people to understand it (lawyers) and people to oversee one of it's biggest components—the salary cap, those people are better known now as the Capologist.
They all form a management group along with hockey operations people like general managers and other executives to make major decisions within these guidelines. The same guidelines as the other 29 NHL clubs have to manage.
Maybe my question is simply this...
"How does an NHL club become so handcuffed by the salary cap?"
The New Jersey Devils are not alone in this situation. Other clubs have had to make huge adjustments to their rosters and depth charts simply due to money. The other issue here for the Devils is injuries. They have seen a rash of injuries hamper their team already, and we are only a few short weeks into the 2010-11 NHL season.
Can this go on for much longer?
Will this happen again later on in the season? This might be the beginning of something...
If you look at the Chicago Blackhawks situation alone. Does this mean that every Stanley Cup winner from now on will have to shed players and salary simply to stay under the salary cap? I don't know...This could become a very disturbing trend in professional sports.
This could give the term "Rental Player" a whole new meaning.
Getting back on topic...Did the Devils do this to themselves by signing one player to a huge contract, or was this a combination of events that led the Devils to the situation they are currently in.
With the injuries and cap restrictions, the Devils dressed under the required 20 skaters for one game this season, followed up by them only dressing even less the next game.
All this because some guys make too much money and some get injured? I guess that is one way of looking at it.
Also, by the time the Ilya Kovalchuk contract was finalized in late August, there wasn't much time for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello to make the necessary roster moves and salary cap options to fit everything in. He invited some players to come to training camp on a free-agent basis.
We all seem to have this notion that "they should trade that player or this player." Reality is that it takes two to dance, and two to make a deal. This wonderful salary cap world makes that extremely difficult to accomplish in a short amount of time.
It's my opinion that there weren't a lot of other general manager's returning Lou's phone calls in late August or early September. Most teams were looking toward training camp, and not adding players.
The National Hockey League Players Association has mentioned that they are "looking in" on this situation because the Devils dressed fewer than 20 skaters for a game (it's happened twice so far), and the Association is concerned that there are other unionized players not getting a chance to be called up or dressed due to salary cap issues...After all, it was the NHLPA who had no issue with one player signing a $100M contract.
Rules are rules...right?
Can you have it both ways? Not sure if you can. Lets remind ourselves here that we are still "feeling out" the CBA and Salary Cap, even if it's been five years already. There will be more and more issues to come out of this as teams will challenge the CBA and the salary cap depending on their individual needs.
Hiding players and big time salaries in the American Hockey League...Oh, boy...get used to that one.
There is nothing wrong with players and ownership groups getting together and making long-term commitments to one another. Every team seems great at the time of any contract signing.
What do you do when the love is gone?
Just ask Sheldon Souray, Wade Redden and Cristobal Huet.
Should you need to be made aware of such things like the CBA, feel free to read it as it appears as a link on the National Hockey League web site.
www.NHL.com/cba/2005-CBA.pdf (the file size is 6.53 MB or 472 pages).
"Dollars and Sense" will appear throughout the NHL season with articles based on the NHL Salary Cap and its issues as they occur.