Today we take on 2 more line items from the NHL Owners to the NHL Players Associations in their attempt to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
- 10 season in the NHL before a player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent
- Contracts of no more than five years in duration
Current CBA: When a player is drafted by a NHL team, they are usually 18 or 19 years old. Their first contract is typically three to four years in length and is called an entry-level contract. The majority won’t see NHL ice once September starts unless they are a superstar. Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Oliver Ekman-Larson are three that come to mind. The rest will go back to their European team, Canadian Major Junior Leagues, or go to college like Chris Summers did. During that three year period, the NHL team owns your rights. They can move you around, trade you, sell you, or call you up to a higher level of play. If you are in college, you are pretty much left alone. No team wants to be known as pulling a player out during the academic year.
After your entry-level contract ends, you now sign a contract that called a restricted contract. Your team has a good idea of your talent and skill level. They may change your position (center to right wing, or like Paul Bissonnette; you move from defense to forward). The parent club brings you in for their development camp and you get examined for the proper placement in the minor league system. Now, your goal as a players is to get the two-way contract. Meaning, the parent club can call you up from the AHL when your services are needed, and you will receive an NHL salary for time spent with the club. That translates to a nice typical league minimum salary for time spent with the NHL club, and about $65,000 for their minor league affiliate. You can get called up anytime and start collecting that NHL salary, ride the plane to games, have a steak on the plane. Then you get sent back down and get your usual seat on the bus, eat your Subway, and know what you have to do in order to get your seat on the team plane. The parent club can call you up at anytime with no restrictions on length or number of callups. Think of Mike Stone last season with the Coyotes.
A restricted free agent is defined a player who has played professionally (NHL) for less than seven years or is under 27 years of age. Your current team owns your rights. They can resign you to a contract negotiated by you and your agent (think Keith Yandle’s contract last year) or you can be given a qualifying offer (Chris Summers this year). A qualifying offer means no other team can sign you without giving your current team compensation. The Flyers signed restricted free agent Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators to a 14 year contract. Nashville has one week to match the offer or Shea becomes a Flyer. If Nashville does not match the offer, the Flyers have to give Nashville four first round draft picks due to the contract value being larger than 7.8 million dollars per season.
Should no team tender an offer to you while a RFA, your current team can resign you. If you make over a million dollars, they resign you at a negotiated rate that could not include a raise. If your salary is less than $660,000, you get a contract at a rate of 110% current level. If you make less than 1 million dollars, your new salary is 105%.
Proposed CBA: Ten years to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA). The UFA contract is when you make your money, you have the chance to play on a team that can win, is near your home, or perhaps a team you grew up idolizing. Now the owners want you to wait 10 year, which is three more than the current terms. The average NHL career is about 3 seasons for a defenseman (251 games) or forward (241 games). Goalies average 148 games (less than 2 seasons). Now the owners want you to wait for over three times the average career duration to have a say in your financial future. Over three times the average career to have a say in where you play. Prediction: This current CBA language will remain
Proposed CBA: Contracts of no longer than 5 years in duration. The owners want to restrict contracts to no more than five years in length. This flies in the face of their current actions of signing key players to long term contracts. Rick DiPietro of the NY Islanders was signed to a 15 year contract, Shea Weber was tendered a 14 year offer as a RFA, and Sidney Crosby signed a 12 year extension. Hypocrisy, they name is owner. I do not blame the players for wanting long-term money and security. The owners approve of the deals. They will be the ones whining in eight years that have an old and worn-down Shea Weber on the books for six more years at eight million a season. And the players will complain that the eight million a season they signed for eight years ago is now equivalent to a market value of perhaps five million. If they are in the NHL that long.
The owners must suspend reality to think the players will be willing to wait three times the average career to get to free agency, and once they do, sign for a contract of no more than five years. And, they must know this proposal cannot be taken serious as they violate their own desire for five year contracts as they sign the top free and unrestricted free agents to long term deals. It makes Donald Fehr’s job so much easier.
Conclusion: The owners need to be protected from themselves and do not have the stomach to practice sensible and sound business decisions. They plan to use the CBA a a throttle governor instead of pumping their own brakes and doing what is best for their club and professional hockey.