Thursday, October 07, 2010


Contract Rules Not Worth The Paper They're Written On

Yesterday, while everyone was gearing up for the NHL season reading previews and criticising predictions, some NHL teams faced a very important deadline.

The Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames were all over the salary cap and had until 3 pm EDT to do something about it. The moves that ensued leave me to question my early faith in this salary cap as a levelling device once again, after a summer of cap nonsense.

To start with, let's review the consequences for starting the season over the salary cap: To be honest with you, I'm not sure. And I'm not sure anyone really is certain about what definitive move the league would take. The CBA gives flexibility in the regard ranging from fines to draft picks to forfeit of games. Let's say that it at least the teams at risk of going over believe there would be consequences, unlike those that went over to end the season.

So no clear consequences, but definite fear that the league might make an example of someone led to some tricky moves on the salary cap front yesterday.

Vancouver used Sami Salo's injury as credit to go over the cap, and messed with prospects heads and travel schedules to get to their priority. That wasn't enough though, as they also needed to make some trades, notably Shane O'Brien and Darcy Hordichuk for a player they have no intention of using.

New Jersey were expected to be forced into a trade, but instead delayed their move by taking advantage of a Bryce Salvador concussion and Anssi Salmela's recovery to declare the LTIR and non-roster, respectively.

The Bruins too used injury. They leveraged Marc Savard's and Marco Sturm's injuries into cap space. If they come back, it will be interesting to see if and how they will move.

The Flames have injuries too.

All this, of course, comes after the Blackhawks and Rangers used effective "forced retirement" to get under the cap, a disgraceful tactic that flies in the face of the spirit of competition and level playing field.

So rather than actually getting under the salary cap, teams choose to "circumvent" it by using sometimes less than honest tactics. I don't know what the solution is to all this, but perhaps some proper consequences could help. And, perhaps enforcing the cap into the playoffs (after all isn't the Stanley Cup the only prize being played for?) might help.

Until the NHL does something about all this, I continue to be disappointed with the Habs who seem content to sit idly by as teams perennially contend on the back of wonky rules. The Canadiens, who must have some of the largest purses in the business, seem meanwhile perfectly content to sit idly by and collect their revenue for a less than salary-ceiling payroll again. The extent of the Habs creativity went up in thin air when they pre-emptively traded Jaroslav Halak to make sure they wouldn't have this kind of work to do in the fall. It may seem right, but don't be too surprised when New Jersey, Chicago, Vancouver and maybe even Boston enter March as good-looking contenders and Montrealers have new spring calendar openings.

The NHL salary cap circumvention is shameful, just like holding and obstructing is. But if everyone else is doing it. Well come on.

More black eye

The shiners for the league's image don't end at waiver wires and LTIR lists.

At the other end of the table, the New York Islanders use salary buyouts and choose not to put Mark Streit on LTIR as it would mean they'd need to do something about meeting the salary floor. Larry Brooks thinks its just as significant a mockery. So do I.

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