[the question put to the peanut gallery is: if the cap is supposed to come down hard next year, won't the league do something to stop all these teams from having to dump salary to get under the cap, like maybe decide to keep the cap up anyway, or create some new loophole whereby teams are slapped on the wrist for going over the cap?]
Imagine if the CBA turns out to have a "but not really" clause. What would people be saying about Lombardi if he operated under the assumption that if he manages the team's cap toward a catastrophic end it will be okay because the league will in effect bail everybody out?
This isn't General Motors.
And if several teams assume the cap is coming down and act accordingly, but some teams persist in acting recklessly, and THEN it turns out their recklessness is rewarded by some kind of CBA mulligan, how angry do you think those teams who abided by the CBA and dumped huge salaries are going to be? And think about which teams those will be. The big ones. Detroit. San Jose. Calgary. NYR. Chicago.
(Also, the cap is there for a reason: to increase competitiveness and of course to keep costs manageable for owners; won't the owners be upset to find out their hard-won cap is b.s.??)
Conversely, if those teams all decide to ignore the CBA and bust the cap or put themselves in a position where they simply cannot get under the cap, I don't think I would be alone in imagining some kind of collusion on the part of those teams. Because I'm quite sure none of them is going to want to act alone to be the only team that boxes itself into a corner.
And what about the players who took less money in order to help their team stay under the cap, only to find out that the cap was really more of a suggestion than a rule? Shouldn't the NHLPA scream bloody murder? Wouldn't this be seen by the union as a giant con by the owners, who -- they would be right to wonder -- maybe never really had any intention of sticking to this whole cap thing if push came to shove?
I guess my shorter bottom line is this: the idea that somehow the rules they have set up will turn out not to be firm will lead to the CBA version of a constitutional crisis.
I wonder if it wouldn't be easier, in terms of the amount of cataclysm, just to let the troubled teams send their stars to the AHL for a year, until the new CBA negotiations happen and they can fix it. You're probably talking about four huge contracts sent down to the minors. That would be ridiculous, but it wouldn't be as bad as total f'ing anarchy.
...and maybe it would serve the players right who took on those giant stupid contracts in the first place. Sort of like people who bought houses they couldn't afford, because they just knew the market was going to go up up up. And it would be an effective disincentive to future bloated albatross deals.