I know it's only early August but September 15th isn't really that far off. Looks like it's time for the kid gloves to come off as Bettman and Fehr get down to it for reals. A poll and more after the jump...
Unfortunately, especially for us fans, I think this is going to be another knock-down, drag-out between the league and NHLPA. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by the record revenue the NHL has been raking in the last few years. Most of that money is generated by the league's big boys and they aren't willing to share it to the extent that it would take to make the bottom producing teams healthy. I don't see that changing in the next five weeks or anytime soon for that matter. If the NHL had a TV deal like the NFL or NBA maybe they'd loosen up the purse strings and have a meaningful revenue sharing system which works but that is not reality. Despite the contracts we've seen given out this summer, the reality is there are too many unhealthy teams who simply can't afford to see the cap floor rise $6M or $7M every year and the owners of those teams are going to want to shut it down instead of continuing in a way that is detrimental to their franchise.
Isn't this the system the owners wanted and were willing to lose a season over the last time around? Yes. Is it fair that the players are likely going to have to give back (again) to allow the league to keep on, keeping on in it's current configuration? No, but in my opinion the league holds the hammer and can ultimately bully the players with the spectre of folding teams that can't compete financially under the status quo or similar conditions. You can already make a strong argument that simply contracting the Coyotes at some point over the last three years would have made some degree of sense financially and still does. It also wouldn't be much of a stretch to apply that line of thinking to a few other teams. In a scenario like that the players would then have to choose between fewer jobs and making more money in say a 24 or 26 team league or making a little less but having the job security and career longevity a 30 team league brings. Under those circumstances I would see the players buckling before the owners.
I know that may sound extreme and implausible to most of you (and it is to some degree) but despite the record revenue and huge contracts I think there are a few teams who are already seriously hurting financially and a few others who would be in deep water soon enough if we continue to see the cap floor rise substantially on an annual basis, So something is going to have to change and that something is going to come strictly from the players paychecks unless Fehr can beat the owners into a true compromise consisting of a combination of deeper revenue sharing and salary rollbacks. A lot of writers and fans laughed off the initial offer made by the league as utter nonsense and I must admit, I found it a bit on the preposterous side myself. While I don't think the league would ever seriously expect to get everything it asked for in that offer, I am now starting to think they are not going to come off those numbers to the extent many others do. That leaves less room to make a deal that looks equitable to both sides and could lead to plenty of missed games. So who's laughing now? Not me, that's for sure.