Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Talking Hockey: We got your CBA right here
By Tim Boughton, Paul Grant and David Walton
PAUL GRANT: OK, how about this topic for this week:
What would you like to see in the new CBA? And try to keep 75 percent of the answers serious.
Tim, because you’re well-rested from your work furlough, let’s start with you. What say you?
TIM BOUGHTON: First and foremost, no matter what the new CBA contains, it should be ratified for no less than 12 years. I’m sick of going through this every six years. It is stupid. I realize the world changes a lot in 12 years, but with all the money they are doling out to the lawyers putting this thing together, the CBA should be negotiated so it's flexible enough to be relevant long after everyone stops complaining about the recent Metallica-Lou Reed disaster. So, 12 years should just about cover it.
Olympic participation by the players should be guaranteed again in this CBA. Let's discount men’s Olympic soccer -- it is 23-and-under and there is very little name recognition for the casual fan. (OK, Ryan Giggs was one of the veteran exceptions for the U.K. this year, but, c’mon, let's face it, it was like celebrating the Fourth of July with snakes and sparklers.) But soccer does have the World Cup, and hockey doesn’t have anything even close to it in popularity (IIHF World Championships? Yawn). As much as I dislike Sidney Crosby, I’d much rather see him beat the U.S. in the Olympics than some jabroni amateur like Dave Walton.
Salary arbitration should be allowed after a player's second season in the NHL -- yes, it can be on an entry-level contract -- but anything awarded by the arbiter would not count against the salary cap, through the duration of the contract, and the cap number could not be traded. If one of these players were traded, the new team would assume the arbitrated contract number. I guess this could theoretically backfire and bankrupt a team with a lot of young talent in a small market, such as Edmonton. Then again, nobody forced the Oilers to drown Ales Hemsky in money.
If players agree to it, a team could have two players with up to 50 percent of their compensation deferred and count against the salary cap in the deferred years. But it needs to be backed by the league somehow in case the league contracts. This should help the small-market teams and is the same concept the Reds used to sign Ken Griffey Jr. But that was back before baseball teams were worth $2 billion.
DAVID WALTON: Finally, Tim and I agree on something. Actually, two somethings.
Twelve years is an excellent length for a CBA agreement, and Olympic participation should also be guaranteed. Two checkmarks for Tim.
What I would like to see in a new CBA:
• Add a fourth year to rookie contracts. Three years on an entry-level contract isn't enough to help owners keep salaries down.
• Add a year of experience before allowing players to become UFAs. Lowering the age (gradually) to 27 in the previous CBA was an excellent concept, but they skewed the age a little too low. Make it one year older and everyone wins.
• Revamp the restricted free agency compensation. Make the compensation a combination of draft picks and players. Was it really fair that the Flyers were able to give an offer sheet for more than $100 million dollars to Shea Weber and the only compensation that the Predators would have received was first-round draft picks? While first-round picks are certainly assets, it's not fair compensation for losing a player who you technically own rights to. What if, in this instance, the Predators would have received a package of Jakub Voracek or Sean Couturier and draft picks? Seems more than fair, does it not?
• I think the owners took advantage of the players' situation last time the CBA was negotiated and now it's time for the owners to give back. You can't claim $3.3 billion in revenue and then ask for everyone to take pay cuts. So they need to come up with a thorough, fair and common-sense approach to revenue sharing. But it also needs to be tracked to ensure that the money is used in a manner that helps teams and not just adds to the owners' bank accounts. If you think the owners won't pocket that money, then read up on the Florida Marlins' owners. It's laughable.
• Shorten the season by four games. By doing this, hopefully we can avoid having Stanley Cup finals games in June.
That's all I've got for now. Let's see what Borje Salming's No. 1 fan has to say.
PG: Wow, Commissioner Dave, you have done your homework. I can’t add anything to that.
One thousand one, one thousand two.
Rookie contracts: Because I can’t help myself, I will go contrary to Dave and eliminate altogether the cap for rookie contracts. Which means, of course, that the owners won’t be able to help themselves, either. But what other industry puts an income limit on new guys? Let’s reintroduce trust by the owners in the GMs: If a GM says a player is worth a bunch, he gets a big contract. So what if he hasn’t played a lick of NHL time? The GMs would have to start thinking like stock brokers -- really analyze potential player worth before throwing around checks.
Revenue sharing: Bring it to 50/50, but let’s cut through the shell game. In other words, don’t hide revenue generated by the team in the arena that you also own, claiming a loss for the team while the arena makes massive profits. Play a reasonable game.
Future CBAs: No more cutting back player salaries by 24 percent every time the CBA expires. He’s not their boss, but the commissioner needs to keep the owners’ spending in line. The lockout shouldn’t be an exercise in forced restraint caused by the owners’ inability to operate their businesses like you and I do at home while balancing our books. Ergo: Don’t spend more than you’ve got coming in and don’t spend money you don’t yet have. While we’re at it, pop in 10-year contract limits for all players, with annual amounts separated by no more than 10 percent. So, $2 million the first season, $2.2 million the second season, and so on. Ten percent is a pretty decent cost-of-living adjustment, wot?
Term: I’m with you on this, guys: Multiple years, but with allowances to reopen the CBA, with the agreement of an independent arbitrator, for minor adjustments caused by economic strife/success, accident or lack of interesting stories for columnists to opine about. In other words, hands off until further notice. It would have to be a pretty good reason to renegotiate.
Olympics: Really? We’re still debating the merit of this idea? In. Every time. And hold the season-opening international games at an Olympics venue in Olympic seasons.
Pension: Do more for the indigent, concussed and otherwise not-well-off retired players. Surely there is a chunk of this money being tossed around that can go to those that brung ya.
There, now that we’ve solved that, there’s no excuse for a lockout in September. Close call.
Until next week, guys, the balcony is closed.