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One argument the league could make [UPDATED - NOW LESS FLAWED!]

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I'm not a lawyer or any kind of accredited expert, and there's no way I know more about the CBA than the pros do. So there must be a high degree of probability that everything I am about to say is wrong. You have been warned.

[At the request of the citizens of JftC, I have cleaned up the post so that it's actually legible. The original one with the strike-throughs and revisions clearly marked is available here as a pdf]

If a player and club enter into an SPC the parties have no intention of fulfilling, and the contract is front-loaded to artificially lower the cap, the effect of this is to drain real funds from the Escrow Account, because the offending contract's increased salary relative-to-cap requires every player in the league to forfeit a greater percentage of his salary than he would otherwise.  The players' share of salary is a fixed number, and the offending contract's "extra" salary  comes out of the players' share, forcing everyone to take a hit.

Artificially lowering the cap hit by extending the term of the contract costs other players money in the present. This is, in and of itself, not a circumvention, provided that the player plays to the end of his contract. Because, at the end of the contract -- more than a decade in the future -- the player's salary, relative to cap hit, is tiny (instead of huge), and the result is a benefit to the players' escrow reimbursements.

But if neither the team nor the player has any reason to believe that the player will be playing seventeen years in the future, if in fact something less than 1% of NHL players in history have ever played at age 44,  if nobody -- not the club, not the player, not the league, the fans or any random person on the street (really, try it!) -- thinks there's any reasonable expectation that the guy is going to play those last years, and especially not at less than 1/20th of his original salary...

...that's a circumvention of the CBA.

And it's not a "victimless crime" either. It screws all the players out of money to which they are entitled, by that very same CBA. The promise of the players getting more money if revenues go up is a cornerstone of the CBA, which the owners, the players, the union and the league all voted for.

Oh but wait. I almost forgot.

Yes, the players get screwed in the early years of the contract, but there is a second screwing at the end of the contract which is the direct consequence of the fact that the player has retired before he ever gets to those minimum wage years.

Because the player will have retired, his now low salary (relative to cap hit) years are off the books. If he had played, the low salary years would have benefited the players because they would get more kicked back to them out of escrow (again, because the player is taking very little from the players' share, relative to his cap hit). But no. Those low salaries are gone, right when they would have been a burden to the offending team (huge cap hit sucking up valuable pay-roll room). And the result of that is, a double-screwing of the players in the union, and of course the fact that the offending team is able -- by this maneuver -- to field a better (more expensive) team than the CBA allows, which gives them an unfair advantage over rival clubs. Which is really another way of saying, they are screwing the league and the NHLPA.

Which might be one reason the league is objecting. And why I am curious to see how the NHLPA handles this.