On Friday, NHL owners and the league office presented the NHLPA with their initial offer on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Puck Daddy's Harrison Mooney summarized the five main points the owners want to see changed in the next CBA. His post was followed by some analysis from Greg Wyshynski.
I will be reviewing the points again and giving my take on the offers. I'm also going to add how each could potentially effect Anaheim.
Point #1: Roll back the players' share of revenue to 46%
I have a fundamental problem with this, and it's not just that Donald Fehr has said that reducing players' salaries is not an option. Players take on almost all of the risk. There's an argument that owners assume financial risk, and that some of them have failed and been forced to move or sell. I don't know that an owner has ever been hurt signing a check, though. More importantly, very few of them are financially ruined when their teams fail.
A player who can't play loses his livelihood. The players should get a majority of the revenue. Without them, there is no league. No one pays to see the Samuelis skate around on the ice. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that survives on the ability to sell players. They deserve a bigger cut of the pie. Whether or not they deserve a 57% cut is certainly debatable.
As for Anaheim, it would probably be a good thing for the owner to get a larger share of revenue. It would lead to an increase in the budget, and who doesn't want that? However, I think that a more comprehensive form of revenue sharing could help us here as well. This one is pretty cut and dry for the owners, they want more money. However, even as I write the rationale for how this could be good for the Ducks, I'm struck by how much it sounds like trickle down economics. To my understanding, trickle down economics has never worked, so there's no knowing if any increase of revenue actually makes it to the ice.
Point #2: Ten Years before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent
According to a study done by Quanthockey.com, the average hockey career is 5-to-6 seasons, covering approximately 239 games. Under the proposal, the average player wouldn't see free agency. However, this is also going to affect the above average players who endure the league long enough to earn free agency.
As it stands now, a player who is drafted has a better than average chance of spending his entire career with one organization, barring some form of player movement or injury. I think the current standard is fair - seven years of experience or 27 years old. I mean, who doesn't love free agents in their prime. The argument in favor of this change is that this will limit the huge second contracts that guys are signing so teams can eat up UFA years. This will only increase the amount of holdouts because RFAs will have no other bargaining chip.
Obviously, the Ducks want this. Every team wants this. There have been six RFA offer sheets signed since the lockout, but only one of them wasn't matched. I'm sure you can guess which one. RFAs simply don't move. Teams want to take away a player's freedom for as long as possible. It drives down contract prices.
Point #3: Contracts will be capped at 5 years
I'm not really in favor of anything that limits contract length. The best argument for it is the elimination of cap circumvention. However, I think the cost is much higher.
Players and organizations should be allowed to enter into any agreement they want. When the cap circumvention problem is solved, long term contracts will benefit small markets more than large markets because they'll be able to trade years-for-dollars. High turnover and shorter contracts favor large markets and that's not what the league wants.
People have been discussing how tough it is going to be to see Shane Doan leave Phoenix because he's been there his entire career. The '90s were the era of the mercenary. There were a few players who stuck around forever, Joe Sakic and Forsberg come to mind, but even Ray Bourque moved to Colorado for that Cup victory. Sergei Fedorov left Detroit. Kariya left Anaheim. There's whole list.
This could become problematic for the Ducks. In the current market, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are due 8-10 year deals. As a smaller market team it's imperative that we be able to hold onto our core for long stretches and the long term contract afford us that. This is something the Ducks should be interested in beating down in negotiations.
Point #4: No more salary arbitration
The owners are trying to hand the players an empty gun. Arbitration is a way for players and management to seek an outside source when resolution through negotiation is impossible. It's a way for an RFA to seek fair compensation. Remember when Nashville took Weber to arbitration? Remember when Nashville went to the arbitrator and said Weber was only worth 4.75 million after he was nominated for the Norris? When you're an RFA a team has complete control and going to arbitration is a chance to get a fair pay day. Taken that away is unreasonable.
Of course, this is good for the Ducks. Anything that takes away a negotiation tactic from a player is good for the organization because it gives the organization more leverage in running down the price on the contract. I can't see this as bad for the organizations, but it'll definitely cripple the power of the NHLPA.
Point #5: Entry level contracts extended to 5-years
The argument is the same as everything else on this list, run down expenses and keep the players under lock and key. A five-year ELC means cheap, young players for longer. It also delays pay days for guys who overperform, like Drew Doughty or Bobby Ryan. This comes with its own risk.
Extending the ELC will allow players to build a stronger track record for the second contract negotiation. Of course, that doesn't matter as much if RFA-years can go all the way to 30. I believe this also goes back to the fundamental question of how many years a guy owes a team for drafting him. I think this is dangerous because it might make us a little more like the NFL. A tactic like this increases holdouts because you'll have second and third year players who are impact guys, like a Steven Stamkos, whose only recourse for a pay day will be to hold out. They'll want to restructure deals instead of fulfilling contracts. It's a very tough rope to walk.
On the surface, the five-year ELC looks good to Anaheim because it enhances the amount of control over the player's destiny, and small market teams are fond of that. However, I think that the three-year ELC is better for small market teams because it reduces the feeling of being trapped. Three years is reasonable. It's a fair trade. According to the average from earlier, we'd be changing the ELC to the length of the average career. Talk about completely eliminating the pay day. Getting to the second contract, while not always financially desirable, is a chance to build a strong rapport with a player while he is still in his formative years. Good negotiations can make a player feel like he belongs. That is helpful to an organization who can't compete financially, but can at least make a player feel wanted.
This list of introductory demands from the owners can't be serious. Everyone knows this is the starting point for negotiations, but the owners should be careful about where they draw the lines. The owners won the lockout last time. They got everything they wanted, so any subsequent mess in the CBA is one they created. To come back now and demand more will only turn fans against them. Although, I imagine they'll accept being the bad guys with all that money they have.