An indecent proposal for how the Preds could practically be guaranteed to win the Stanley Cup in 2012.
The recent signing of Ilya Kovalchuk has brought the controversy of GMs “gaming” the current salary cap rules in the NHL. There are a few other bad examples of course – the other prime example being Henrik Zetterberg.
If you aren’t familiar, the current NHL collective bargaining agreement which put in place a salary cap for the league uses the average of all the years of a contract to calculate a player’s “cap hit”, that is, how much they count against the salary cap for the term of their contract. This means a player like, say, David Legwand can have a 5 year contract that pays him 5.0, 4.5, 4.5, 4.0, and 3.5 million in each year – yet counts as $4.5mil every year of the deal when it comes to the cap. So the Preds have to cut him a $5mil check in the first year, but he only counts $4.5 mil against the cap.
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So when Henrik Zetterberg wanted to sign with the Red Wings, who had plenty of money to pay him but had to worry about keeping salary cap space free, he agreed to a 12 year contract worth $73mil. Trick is, each year paid out as 7.0, 7.75, 7.75, 7.75, 7.5, 7.5, 7.5, 7.5, 7.0, 3.35, 1.0, and 1.0. So of course that’s really a 9-year deal worth an average of $7.5mil per year after which Zetterberg will most likely retire – but the extra 3 years on the end make the cap hit count as $6mil, saving the Wings $1.5mil a year in cap space to go sign some nice 3rd line grinder.
Some are offering that the solution to this problem is to limit contract terms to 5 years. That, combined with the “100% rule” (which states that there cannot be a reduction of the total compensation from any given year over a three-year period by more than 100 per cent), would certainly make it more difficult to game the system (see Martin Erat’s initially rejected contract in 2008 which violated this rule).
However, I have no problem with signing up a player for life. If a team like the Caps want to sign Ovy to a ‘lifetime’ contract they should be able to. If a team like the Islanders wants to throw away their future on Rick Depietro’s gimpy legs, go right ahead.
The real solution to this problem would be to put a rule in place requiring that the minimum salary for any one year of the contract cannot be less than 50% of the value of the highest payout year. Maybe even make it 75% if you really want to get tough. Example: If Hank’s contract peaks at $7.75mil in any one year, the minimum any other year could be would be $5.8mil. Sounds fair, right? Still gives teams room to shift money around in a contract, but not too much.
But that’s not why I’m writing this post. The title of the post is how the Preds could win the Stanley Cup in 2011. So – how does all this salary cap mess, an issue that mostly affects teams with more money to spend than the cap allows – help the Preds. Everyone knows the Preds are one of several teams with a “soft cap” put in place by ownership who cannot afford to write checks for more than a certain amount – no matter what the league cap is. In fact, if the Preds want to continue to receive full revenue sharing from the league they must not spend over the salary cap midpoint according to CBA rules. But that’s just it – they don’t have to.
All David Poile needs to do is reverse what Henrik Zetterberg has done. Find some valuable, talented free agent forwards and defensemen that the Preds could never normally afford to all sign at once – and go for it. Sign them all to rich (but not ridiculous deals). Trick is to front load them with pennies. Tell the players up front: you won’t get much this year in base salary, but we’re going to put together an all-star team, you’ll make a bundle in performance bonuses when we go deep in the playoffs, get your name on the cup, then we’ll trade you away. Next year’s UFA class includes Brad Richards, Joe Thornton, Zedeno Chara, Ed Jovanovski, Alex Semin, and yes even Tomas Vokoun. Sign each of them to deals with a $1mil base pay in year 1 of the deal so the Preds ownership can actually afford it. Then all the following years are signed at true market value. The cap hit doesn’t matter to the Preds ’cause they have cap space to spare. The contracts will still be movable with players of this caliber. The players have a blast, make history, then move on. Heck, they could even have clauses where they get to choose which team to go to, so it’s almost like they’re UFA’s again the next year.
Will this ever happen: no. Of course not. But under the collective bargaining agreement it could. It could even happen under a CBA that limited players to just a 5 year contract. In fact, it would be much more plausible under that sort of term than a 10 year monstrosity that other teams would be hesitant to pick up.
Point is, the CBA needs a clause to limit the difference between minimum and maximum years of the entire deal – not just regulating the length or rapid decreases from year to year.