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Lockout queries

Gary Bettman has seen four work stoppages in his time as NHL commissioner. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Gary Bettman has seen four work stoppages in his time as NHL commissioner. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Lots of great questions submitted this week and nearly all of them concerned the current NHL lockout. The ones I couldn’t get to here might very well be gotten to in either our magazine or on THN Radio, but the only way you’ll know is by checking them out. Now let’s proceed with the, er, proceedings.

Hi Adam. Would the NHL ever consider giving a team a break on their salary cap as a reward for good drafting and team loyalty? Take Patrick Kane for example. He was drafted by the Hawks and continues to play for them.

Maybe 20 percent of his salary would not go against the cap. However, once a player is traded or signs with a new team, the loyalty or good-drafting subsidy would be removed from that player for the rest of his career. Would this make sense? Teams wouldn't be punished as heavily for having good scouting.
Todd Luhowy, Grandview, Man.


Hi Todd.

In essence, you’re talking about a luxury tax system much like the NBA’s. In that league, they have what’s known as the Larry Bird Rule, which allows teams to, without penalty, exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own players (in this case, players who have been with the same team for at least three seasons).

Granted, it’s not quite the same thing – you could acquire “Bird rights” with a team that had traded for you – I think something similar could easily work in the NHL as, as you allude to, a benefit teams who do a good job of drafting and developing players. As well, a luxury tax system fueled by the league’s big-earning teams would help its revenue-sharing program immensely.

That said, it’s clearly not a system NHL team owners are interested in. As we’ve seen in 2004 and again this fall, owners have made no bones about wanting a system that is as restrictive as possible.

Hi Adam,

Why is it that a team can lock out its players and it's OK, but if a player went and played somewhere else it's in violation of his contract? Why isn't a team violating the contract when they lock out players? Thanks.
Nick Clemens, Port Perry, Ont.


Hi Nick,

That’s not quite the case. As long as the NHL isn’t operating of its own accord and there is no collective bargaining agreement between players and owners, NHLers have the right to seek employment elsewhere. (American or junior League-eligible players are exceptions to this rule.)

As soon as a new labor deal is reached, all those NHL contracts become valid and enforceable again, which is why so many eyebrows were raised this week when Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin openly wondered about staying in the Kontinental League if his NHL salary was slashed too severely. He can certainly try to do that, but the NHL and Russian Hockey Federation’s player transfer agreement would bar him from doing so and a lengthy court battle could ensue.

Hi Adam,

With Toronto and Quebec City sure to get new franchises, why is there no talk of a second club in Montreal? That would make 10 in Canada, which is a nice number.
Terry Nicholson, North Vancouver, B.C.


Hi Terry,

Nobody has proposed an in-market challenge to the Canadiens because there’s not enough corporate infrastructure to support the luxury suites and sponsorship realities of the modern NHL team. Even the mighty Maple Leafs have had trouble filling their luxury boxes over the past couple seasons and there is a far bigger corporate base in Toronto than in Montreal.

And remember, it wasn’t all that long ago, when the Canadian dollar was in the 60-70-cent range of the U.S. dollar, that the future of the Habs in Montreal was a legitimate topic of discussion. That situation could present itself again and then where would a second Montreal team be? To ask the question is to answer it.

I still think Quebec City will get a team via expansion or relocation. And two teams in the province of Quebec will make residents of that province as happy as any second Montreal team ever could.

Adam, I read that lots of players are going to Europe during the lockout. But I thought the lockout was between the owners and the players. So, why are the players playing? Should they be working with the owners?
Lawrence Allie, Jersey City, N.J.


Lawrence,

Listen, if I were a player – particularly, an upper-tier star who had enough financial wherewithal to survive the lockout longer than one of my third-or-fourth-line NHLPA mates – I’d have a tough time playing in Europe and taking the job of another, lesser player.

However, I find it rich that some of the people who support the owners’ right to lock out players are the first ones to jump on NHLers for taking advantage of their right to play elsewhere. Are they supposed to not take advantage of every avenue they can, the same way owners do? I think they are.

Hey Adam, I was wondering why the NHLPA and NHL don't just split the revenues 50/50? If they split it then maybe they'll stop arguing about all the other stuff. If they split it 50/50 then that way neither party will be on top. It would just be so much easier this way.
Declan Cross, Belleville, Ont.


Hey Declan,

If only it were that easy. The players can’t say it publicly, but they know they’ll wind up taking less than the 57 percent of hockey-related revenue they received last season. The bigger issue is how HRR is calculated.

As Hockey Night In Canada’s Elliotte Friedman deftly chronicled this week, players have for some time believed that the current manner in which HRR is arrived at isn’t a fair one. And given that the owners’ first CBA proposal would change the definition of HRR to shrink it even further and their last offer did not contain any changes to the definition, the idea of 50/50 loses its meaning and certainly its appeal for the NHLPA.

In the end, if NHL owners said they’d split all HRR evenly and actually included all monies the league collected – including expansion and/or relocation fees – I think the players would be far closer to settling this labor war and getting back to work. But so far, the NHL has shown no interest in that type of business arrangement.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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