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An increase in the NHL salary cap far from a sure thing

Jun 19, 2010, 5:15 PM EDT

Fehr.jpgWith all of this talk about teams making trades for salary cap
purposes and the hand wringing that is taking place over a team’s salary
situation, it’s important to note a few things.

First, we get all
over our salary information from CapGeek.com, what I feel is the best
source for cap information that can be found on the web. Secondly, all
of this talk about just how far under — or over — a team is relative
to the salary is using the same cap that was in place last season: $56.8
million.

That’s not going to be the same next season. Since we
don’t know exactly what the change will be we can only go by what the
cap currently is. So what will the change be?

The first option is
for the cap to be raised yet again — this time to $58.8 million. That
may not sound like that much, but that extra $2 million is a big deal
for many teams, and could be the difference between a league-minimum
entry-level player and a significant upgrade via free agency.

The
other option is more dire: the cap would actually drop by $200,000,
leaving a number of teams in a lurch. You would think that the cap going
up would be the ideal situation for all involved and especially the
players — not so, says
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Mirtle paints an
interesting picture as the NHL Players Association gets set to meet in
Chicago on Monday, as the players must vote on whether to raise the cap
without a formal director in place. Donald Fehr will be in attendance,
and there are many who think he’s the right man for the job, but some
say he may decide not to take the position if he sees another bout of
in-fighting within the union.

Says one agent, per James Mirtle:

“He’s
either going to take the position that he’s going to evaluate what
the players decide and that will affect in turn his decision, or he
will urge the players to take the [cap] escalator, extend the
[collective agreement] and then if they don’t go along with that vote,
he knows where he stands and he’ll check out,” said one agent who asked
to remain unidentified.

There’s no doubt that the NHLPA needs a strong
leader, and despite fears that Fehr taking the job would lead to another
lockout he’s experienced when it comes to helping rebuild a player’s
association — and the NHLPA is a mess.

So why would the players
not want to approve the spike in the salary cap? The issue, says Mirtle,
is escrow payments.

If the cap is raised and most teams spend to
that limit, then it’s likely that once again the NHL would outspend
revenues and the players will see another big chunk of change withheld
from their paychecks. If this is the overwhelming fear, then the players
will vote against the cap increase and teams will be forced to dump
salary and not spend as much in free agency.

This is where the
in-fighting comes in and where a director is most needed: the escrow
payments are effecting the players that already have long, expensive
contracts while the drop in the salary cap will seriously impact pending
free agents in a very negative way. Having a director like Fehr in
place would head off these issues at the pass and give the NHLPA the
stabilizing factor it so desperately needs; unfortunately he hasn’t
decided if he wants the job just yet.

Ultimately, it’s in the best interested of the NHLPA to vote for
the increase and extend the CBA, and it’s the consensus among the agents
that this is what is best for the players. Every season another round
of players become free agents and every year another group of players
benefits from the cap increase. Either the players can decide to be
greedy now, or decide on what is best for the NHLPA in the long run.

  1. The Ol' Goaler - Jun 19, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    I’m not sure the players themselves know which way they want to go; there’s no doubt that Fehr would strengthen the NHLPA. But if the players aren’t united, there’s no way he’ll take the job…

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