Semyon Varlamov was brought to Coloradoin 2011 in a trade that got mixed reviews. (Getty Images)
Here we are, once again, addressing your questions in the THN mailbag. I’m taking a few weeks of vacation after next Friday’s mailbag is filed, but keep your submissions coming, because my colleagues will answer them in my stead. Thanks to all who took the time to type.
Adam, am I missing something? If NHL owners and players can't agree on a long term deal, how hard would it be for both to compromise and get something done short-term to salvage this season and start back on a long-term contract after the playoffs are over.
Ted Lipkin, Washington, D.C.
I wouldn’t say you’re missing something. I will say you’re not as attuned to the deep mistrust that exists between the owners and NHL Players’ Association. To wit: owners wouldn’t want to employ your idea, then watch the NHLPA go out on strike by playoff time in an attempt to create labor negotiations leverage. That’s what happened in 1992, when players went on the picket lines for 10 days and wound up getting hikes in playoff bonus money and improvements in free agency.
It was no coincidence that the head of the NHL at that time – longtime league president John Ziegler – was removed from office immediately after that happened. And ever since then, the league has locked out players as a first option, to never again give players the chance to throw the first punch in a fight. Imagining that owners would suddenly forget about that history and the bitterness that followed is just not realistic.
I’m trying to look beyond this lockout to the point the NHL returns and I can focus on my beloved Avs. With the off-season changes they have made, do you think they’ve got a good chance to make the playoffs?
Jonas Mercier, Denver
I haven’t been overwhelmed by the Avs in recent years. That’s not to say they don’t have some great young players, including captain Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson. But I still say their defense and goaltending is far from the cream of the crop – especially in the ultra-competitive Western Conference – and their payroll (seventh-lowest in the NHL, according to CapGeek.com) indicates they’re either intent on doing things on the cheap, or they’re still a couple years away from making a jump back to the top of the league.
Could they surprise people and secure a lower playoff seed in a shortened season? Absolutely. But keep an eye out for other hockey pundit projections; I think you’ll see there are more people who share my skepticism about Colorado than there are those who have serious expectations.
Greetings Adam, Why is it the American League can give away tickets (the Bridgeport Sound Tigers did this for two games on Nov. 3 and 4 in support of Hurricane Sandy) but the NHL can't agree on how to split the billions they generate? Do you think the AHL players are more willing to play than their richer brothers?
Ed Swort, Trumbull, Ct.
To be honest, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Full credit goes to any pro team at any level that gets in the giving spirit and fundraises to help out people in need. If the NHL wasn’t in lockout mode, I’m quite certain players and teams would be heavily invested in charity work, as they always are. But this is a battle that has nothing to do with a horrific natural disaster. It is a business dispute that happens regularly in other industries, only this one matters more to the public than most others.
As for your second question, I don’t think NHLers are less willing to play than their AHL counterparts. It’s all about the hockey food chain – and because AHLers aren’t at the top of that food chain, they don’t exactly have a ton of leverage to improve their pay or contract conditions. If the NHL folded tomorrow and the American League became the destination of choice for the best players on the planet, I can guarantee you the same labor issues would come to the fore.
Adam, how does H.R.R. affect a player's contract? If a player has a $1 million per season deal, is there a clause that attaches that amount to a certain amount of H.R.R.? Thank you.
Karl Vincent, Quebec City
Hockey-Related Revenue is the pool of money from which player salaries are paid. There is nothing additional that gets tacked on or removed in the process. However, the “cost certainty” the NHL owners achieved in the 2004-05 lockout guarantees, through the process of escrow, that player contracts will be discounted if revenues fall below expectations.
So, using your example, a player’s $1 million contract could be shaved down by tens of thousands of dollars once players and owners arrive at the total of revenue earned each season. If revenues meet or exceed expectations, they would not lose any salary. The trick is to see H.R.R. as the pie, and salaries being some of the slices taken out of the pie.