Dec.7, 2009: Sunrise, FL, USA: Florida Panthers left wing Rostislav Olesz (85) score a goal against Edmonton Oilers goalie Jeff Deslauriers (38) during a shootout at the BankAtlantic Center. The Edmonton Oilers won 3-2 Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Should NHL Player Contracts Be Limited?


As the NHL and the NHLPA continue their negotiations to hopefully end the fear of a potential work stoppage (lockout sounds final), one of the biggest barriers seems to be the length of a contract that a player can sign.  The owners, i.e. Bettman and company want to establish a limitation to the amount of years that a player ia able to sign for with the new agreement.  The NHL is proposing capping the length to no more than five years.  Surely Jacques Martin is squirming in his boxers since he tossed around six year deals like rolls of paper towels when he was at the helm of a GM position here in South Florida.  But I digress… would appear that the owners are talking out of both sides of their mouths.  Why? 

In the height of these negotiations over the past couple of weeks, both Max Paciorety and Wayne Simmonds have been offered and signed to six year deals, eclipsing the alleged proposal.  If the owners, or maybe it’s all Bettman, want to be taken seriously then I would think that in order to show solidarity, and honesty to the players that they would discontinue offering contracts longer than five years during these discussions.  It would seem reasonable, but the appearance is that maybe not everyone is on board with that limitation.

I can’t fault players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Shea Weber, and even Marian Hossa for having such long term deals (more than six years), although for me it’s the structure of the contract that I have the biggest problem with.  In an article Thursday by Michael Grange from Sportsnet, he discusses this very situation as one of the five ways to fix the NHL crisis.  Michael basically calls for a four year maximum to solve the dilemma, and backs it up with his reasons as to why that would work.  

Putting a limit on contracts makes sense.  Whether it’s four years or five years, one of those numbers works, and for all the points that Michael brings up.  So why do we have these issues?  Because players in the past have been given deals to “keep them in the organization” throughout their prime, and or to finish their career with that same team. 

Free agency has also created the power struggle and has increased the length of deals giving certain teams and advantage over others when fighting to sign a player.  Would I have signed Kovalchuk to a 10 year deal?  Not a chance, but that’s me.  All that contract did was prevent most other teams from competing, especially the Atlanta Thrashers who were trying to keep him.  Imagine had Kovy played in Winnipeg instead?  That contract may not be a great example, but the one that was given, yes given to Florida Panther Rostislav Olesz was one of fiscal carelessness, and that is what I think the owners want to stop.  There I agree.  Olesz deserved a six year deal about as much as I belong on the top line centering Versteeg and Flash.

While I don’t want to believe that a player gets complacent, altough I suppose at times some do, having a 10 year deal can actually cause that to take place.  Having shorter deals, keeps you hungry, and like Michael says in his article, everyone wants a raise. It would seem to me that if the owners want to settle this, and the players are willing to make some concessions which it appeared that they did on Tuesday, then both sides need to hammer this one out and agree. 

As bad as free agency sometimes is, it creates a sense of excitement and hope for teams that are pursuing players, as well as a bit of fright in those teams that potentially can lose players.  We all love news, and we all love rumors, as long as they seem valid.

Finally, this one segment of the CBA makes sense from a fiscal standpoint, and creates a fair opportunity for even smaller market teams to compete for a players services.  Because there’s been no rule in place before, certain players have been grossly overpayed, and as we know, certain owners have given the approval of contracts that at the same time overpay these same players.  It makes sense to me to set a limit. Keep players hungry, and also not break the bank of teams who can’t necessarily compete for the rights to star players.

Wasn’t that the whole idea of the CBA in the first place?

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: CBA Florida Panthers Gary Bettman Ilya Kovalchuk Jacques Martin Shea Weber

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