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Thursday, July 31, 2021

Because the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement calls for a minimum team salary floor ($40.7 million for the upcoming 2008-09 season) to go along with the salary cap ($56.7 million), the dynamics of the league’s player-transaction market have gone topsy-turvy:

Normally the trade market would be something akin to salvation. I have an asset I can’t afford. You have a need and room to accommodate it. But here’s the newest wrinkle in a CBA that is now showing more wrinkles than Liz Taylor’s Shar-Pei: Because the floor is so high, the team with cap room no longer has an advantage…

To reach the mandated floor, they need to spend more, in some cases considerably more, money than they take in. To do that, they have to trade not just for useable players per-se, but for salaries that will get them to the new lower level. That usually means getting a high-salaried player, the kind that generally comes with liabilities such as fading performance for the dollar or an expiring contract and/or impending free agency, perhaps even a lifestyle issue. Risky in their own right, but now those same players also come with a demand for some cap-friendly and budding young talent to close the deal.

Obviously, the players association has no problem with this, because inflated spending to reach the floor translates into a higher NHL-level salary. Basically, the owners should have insisted upon a percentage-based spread between the cap and the floor, instead of the set-amount $16 million. Top-to-bottom competitive balance between teams is just as achievable on a relative scale. Something to re-jigger in negotiations for the next CBA.

I do think it’s unfair to impose a minimum payroll on teams; but then, I think it’s just as unfair to impose the cap maximum, too. Salary caps and floors are artificial restrictions, even if tied to league revenues. Bear in mind that, with the mandated minimum NHL-level individual player salary ($475,000 for next season), a de facto floor would take effect anyway. While I’m not in favor of a team suiting up a wholly minimum-wage roster (which would earn well below this year’s $40.7 million), it’s a saner solution than a pegged collective amount.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/31/2008 03:24:11 PM
Category: Hockey
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