Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Squeeze Play

With Larry Brooks predictably calling for the maximum cap value, teams yesterday were letting go various players for cap purposes and make no mistake, that's exactly what they're doing when they say things like "$680,000, which is probably the right price for a guy like that."

This ends up doing two things. #1. It increases the amount of talent available in the UFA market. The more options teams have, the greater the chances that teams won't bid up the process and drive things out of control though it could all backfire and cause even crazier contracts to be offered and the market to spiral even higher. However, with a salary cap in place and more teams showing greater consciousness of it (as evidenced by some of the moves yesterday), the higher supply of available talent will either lead to a reduction of salaries or a number of teams being locked into "cap jail."

#2. Older and marginal players will be forced out of the game sooner rather than later (unless of course the NHL expands...again...). While there is more to it than just numbers; somebody will eventually realize that you can get Chris Chelios' point production for Karl Rachunek's salary (and yes, I know that Rachunek made more $$$$$ last year and is poised to make more $$$$$ than Chelios this year, but work with me people, Rachunek is 26, Chelios is 308 years old) and get it for a longer period of time.

The biggest drawback however is that you're seeing the construction of a wide disparity in salary among the players. "Elite" players will sign long contracts with high dollar amounts while a large glut of players make close to the minimum with little in between the two camps. And because of the way the salary cap works (it is based upon league-wide revenues and a guaranteed sum, therefore there is a finite amount of $$$$$ available to the players and the players are basically fighting with each other over how the pie will be split) you could easily see further dissension in the NHLPA ranks. I'm curious if Union Thug Mouthpiece Larry Brooks will ever report on that. If he does, I'm sure will be Gary Bettman and Ted Saskin's fault and not that of the players asking for for max contracts.

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