Friday, July 23, 2010

SPORTS: The NHL Screwup AND The Solution

It's interesting that history is so determined to repeat itself in the NHL. Alexei Yashin signs a 10-year deal that the New York Islanders learned to hate. So they tried it again with Rick DiPietro and a 15-year deal. Already hate it. Other teams see the 'success' of the Islanders in doing this long-term thing and try their own variations. How's it working out for you in Tampa with the Vinnie LeCavalier deal? And he's a GOOD GUY.

The whole purpose Detroit, Chicago, Washington and now New Jersey are handing out LIFETIME contracts, is to take advantage of a loophole in the bargaining agreement with the players that AVERAGES the per-season hit to the payroll cap. A hard cap with very few intended workable exceptions. In order to get Ilya Kovalchuk at a $6M number yearly, despite paying him closer to $10M yearly for the likely length of his career, Devil GM added six more years for a sum total of 3.5M dollars. Bingo, you have the magic cap number of $6M.

Course, the NHL finally got religion and said it violated a clause that basically says, you can't try to circumvent the spirit of the agreement. Which is, to get a reasonable cap number over a reasonable length of contract. One man's reasonability is another man's idea of ridiculousness. Thus, the NHL finally said enough was enough and tried to put the cap back on the genie bottle.

It'll all end up in court. Betcha Kovalchuk doesn't hit the ice in a Devil's uni this calendar year. Might be back in Jersey at the turn of the year, lawyers flanking him on either side. Or he might be suiting up with St. Pete's of the KHL. Either way, he won't play if he won't blink on giving up his $102M contract, one that exceeds the offer he turned down in Atlanta by a couple of mill. He's an obstinate guy and he's fixated on not taking a haircut for pronouncing the Atlanta bid not enough.

The IDEA of the averaged salary isn't the flaw in the CBA. And neither is the lack of a maximum contract length, which, to protect the owners from themselves, should have been five years (a number the NBA is getting to). Nope, it was the lack of control on the AVERAGE concept.

Simple solution to the whole issue. Salary can't deviate more than 12.5 percent year over year (either up OR down). Can't deviate by more than 20 percent over a two-year period. Thus, the average stays the average. Or thereabouts. If somebody wants to pay Kovalchuk $10M a year for the next ten years, the likely extent of his remaining playing career, have at it. It's your team's money. BUT, you'll still be paying him a bit better than $8M for that final year when he might be better off in a rocking chair than getting rocked on the ice.

Suddenly, the idea of having a manageable buy-out (usually by one of your successors as GM) isn't so enticing. It's a lot easier to give Kovalchuk 3.5M to walk away from his last six years of contracted servitude, then more than twice that, PER YEAR, for no work. Amortization can only work so many miracles.

A little change and the BIG problem with the CBA goes away.

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