In terms of what is happening to Wade Redden and Scott Gomez, the Players are getting exactly what they asked for.
No, the NHLPA did not want high profile players being told to stay at home. Dont play here, dont play ANYWHERE. Technically, that’s not what they wanted, but they were adamant that they didnt want their members hidden in the minors. These are NHL players being forced to play in the AHL just to satisfy the needs of the owners. The NHL Players were not going to suffer this injustice any longer. Funny thing is that there appeared to be very little fight back from the NHL on this point.
This should have been warning sign #1 for the PA.
The NHLPA effectively bargained themselves into working under a harder salary cap. For anyone with the gift of common sense, that should have been painfully obvious. Without the ability to put restrictive contracts outside of the salary cap NHL teams are left with few options. The Cap hits for those contracts are going to count. Period. Scott Gomez is going to count for Montreal, Wade Redden is going to count for New York. End of Story. Placing either in the AHL is still possible, but their Cap will count against their NHL clubs, so why put them anywhere else? For that matter, with Compliance Buyouts available in the summer -but only to healthy players- why would NHL teams gamble with their future by allowing these players to play at all?
The answer is that they wouldnt at all. It doesnt make sense to risk the future so Wade Redden can play in the NHL for 48 games this year.
Now, the unintended consequence for the Players that is directly resultant from this new provision in the CBA is that there is simply less money available to players, specifically young players. RFA’s are often subject to the will of their NHL Clubs. This hasnt prevented teams like Edmonton from forking over wads of cash to young players, but teams that have those Restrictive Contracts simply dont have the Cap space available to give those RFAs the healthy raises they want.
Enter Michael Del Zotto, 40 point defenseman for the Deep Pocketed New York Rangers. This young man is rumoured to have agreed to a 2.5 million dollar deal. If you read that and thought “What a deal!”, then I assure you Del Zotto’s camp feels like they’ve been robbed. And he has been, by the new CBA.
It’s a harder Cap now than it was in the past. The Rangers have to spend 6.5 million dollars of Cap on Wade Redden. They simply dont have the available money to give to Del Zotto. Under the old system both Wade Redden AND Del Zotto would get big paychecks. Wade Redden was forced to play in the AHL but still cashed big money. Del Zotto would play in the NHL and get a pay raise based on his stellar play.
Now? Now Wade Redden has been told he shouldnt play anywhere. Not the NHL, not the AHL, nowhere. He used to get to play the game he loved for a living, now he and Brian Burke can play shuffleboard together every Saturday night (ladies night). A year ago Del Zotto could count on getting paid accordingly if he performed. Now he’s going to be paid less than market rate for a 40 point defenseman.
It’s a lose-lose scenario for the players in that scenario. Less money for everyone, less Hockey for everyone.
In the summer this issue will be resolved. The NHL clubs will be able to use their compliance buyouts and relieve the pressure that built up in the last 7 years. Here’s the problem for the players though.
NHL owners/GM’s have never been able to curb their spending. That Cap pressure could ratchet up over the next 10 years of this CBA and with the harder salary cap that the players fought for there wont be any way for the players to get the money they wanted.
The Del Zotto deal just might be the first of many contracts that reflect the realities of a harder Cap. In the short term we can also keep an eye on the PK Subban deal that is reportedly not close at all.
For me, I chalk this one up to “Careful what you wish for.”