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11-05-2012, 11:38 AM
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Interesting article in the Globe and Mail regarding how some of the more moderate owners in the mid- and smaller-smarkets and minor-league players may not like some of the provisions in the NHL's standing offer, including (1) not permitting teams to count potential bonuses--that, more times than not, never get paid or only paid in small part--towards their salary cap in order to get to the cap floor, and (2) counting all salaries in excess of $105,000, even those on the minor league roster, against a team's NHL cap.

On the player bonus-cap floor issue:

Under the old agreement, a club such as the Islanders routinely made sure there were several entry-level players on its roster whose cap hit was much larger than their actual salary thanks to several bonuses. For example, in the 2011-12 season, rookie Nino Niederreiter’s entry-level contract paid him $900,000 in actual salary but nearly $2-million in bonuses brought his cap hit to just under $2.8-million. The 20-year-old was on the NHL roster for 55 games and scored exactly one goal, which meant almost all of that bonus money was never paid, a huge saving for the cash-strapped Islanders.

But under Bettman’s proposal, that would no longer be allowed. Instead of declaring $2-million they wouldn’t spend, the Islanders and other teams would have to cough up that cash in player salaries.
A boon for the players because teams would have to put up real cash rather than "fake" bonus money that's likely never to be paid out to the younger players on ELC's. But I can't imagine teams like Florida, Colorado, or Anaheim, to name a few, would be too happy about that, as some of their increased revenues in a 50-50 split may be negated by the additional "real money" that has to be spent on the roster.

On the issue of putting salaries in excess of $105,000 on the team's NHL cap, including salaries of minor-league players:

In the case of the minor-league players, the NHL could find itself in court. Following the 2004-05 lockout, the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, which represents minor-league players, sued the NHL because the labour agreement decreed any team that had a player with a salary of $75,000 or more claimed by another team on NHL re-entry waivers would have to pay half of the salary, which would count against their own payroll. This effectively capped salaries for AHL veterans at $75,000 and the PHPA managed to have the limit scrubbed.

Now that Bettman proposed to include all salaries above $105,000 in a team’s cap count, the PHPA could move again. At present, NHL teams often like to pay some veterans as much as $300,000 to serve on their AHL teams as mentors for the young players but this means teams would not be willing to pay more than $105,000. It would also mean the AHL would quickly lose those players, who are often fan favourites, to Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League or the European leagues.
I, too, would anticipate a legal battle there. I'd imagine some owners would be upset with that rule too, because, as the article says, they may have difficulty retaining AHL vets to mentor youngsters if their salaries are effectively capped at $105,000. Given that the PHPA is not a party to any CBA entered into by the NHL and NHLPA, I'd imagine an antitrust suit would be forthcoming, alleging that the CBA between those parties constitutes a restraint of trade, and artificially keeps salaries down. That's an interesting issue to watch.

Finally, the interplay between those two issues could get interesting. Would cap floor teams sign a few $300,000 minor-league players to get to the cap floor that way?

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