The Counterproposal, Part 2: Are You Kidding Me?

This is what I see when I think about the CBA

This NHL offseason is getting depressing. Because meetings between actual owners and actual players were getting nowhere, the top representatives for each side: Gary Bettman and Bill Daly for the Owners and Donald and Steve Fehr for the Players decided to have their own private meeting yesterday. That resulted in the Owners making yet another new proposal, although from what information exists about it, basically all they did was take their original proposal and change the way things were worded rather than actually begin the process of working towards a compromise with the players. That’s not good. Read more when you click the link… Read the rest of this entry »

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The Counterproposal

So back on Tuesday the NHLPA came out with their own plan for the new collective bargaining agreement.

Sid looks like he wants to break some skulls

Let’s just say that it looks a lot different from the owner’s plan. The specific document has not been made publicly available, but so far we know the following:

  • The players are willing to take decreases to salary cap revenue sharing. Their plan calls for a multiplicative reduction each year starting with the 2013-14 season. The plan calls for keeping the 57% configuration this year (probably because several teams have already spent to the cap and a cap reduction would hurt the players). For next year though, the cap would decrease by 2% to 55% of the league’s profit. In the following year it would decrease by an additional 4% (to 51%), and possibly by 6% after that (limiting salary cap space to 45% of the league’s revenues, pretty low really). I’ve also heard that the players don’t want to go below 48% so I might be mistaken on exactly how the reduction mechanism works.
  • Of course the players don’t want to mortgage their livelihood to the same league that struggled to make any profit at all as little as a decade ago: their plan links the percentage reduction to the continued financial viability of the league. The reason why the cap jumped so high this year was because of record profits, the players will only accept a cap reduction if the league continues to make more money (in other words the cap won’t go down, it will stay at the same real dollar amount while being derived from less revenue sharing). In order to do that the players want the option to accept their own reduction, or to choose to keep the current 57% share on a year-by-year basis. Of course the owner’s don’t want this at all, they want the players to give back their money upfront, and the last thing they want is for the players to have the power to choose whether the cap will be reduced or not. In other words the players are in agreement with the owners to shrink their own percentage of revenues, beyond that though, the demands are vastly different.
  • The next issue at stake deals with “hockey related revenue.” The PA plan calls for what can best be described as the “MLB-strategy.” We all know that the biggest spenders in MLB, (the Yankees, the Red Sox, etc.) pay for half of the payroll of the Pirates and other teams with low profitability. The NHLPA wants to attempt to extend the same benefits between “big” and “small” owners in their league. The trouble with this is that in MLB, the fees that pay for small market teams are based off of player payroll, which in MLB is limitless, something that can’t be replicated in the salary-capped NHL. In MLB, when your payroll exceeds a certain figure you pay a penalty equivalent to how far you exceed that number. That money then goes back into a pot that is distributed to the teams that need it to be “competitive.” Well what happens when you have a hard cap that you cannot exceed? The PA has provided that large market teams should have the ability to exceed the cap by upwards of 5%, so long as they pay the appropriate penalty, and presumably they cannot use money that was distributed to them from other franchises.
  • Although I think this is a beautifully intelligent solution, only using 5% cap exceptions will likely not be enough to even influence the profitability of one team, let alone the bottom 10 franchises in the league. As we hopefully all know, the salary cap is currently slated at $70.2 million for next year. If teams were allowed to exceed that total by 5% that would amount to an extra $3.5 million to spend on players. Let’s assume that only the league’s 12 most valuable franchises chose to use the extra $3.5 million (and we’ll assume that they will use all of the $3.5 mil, not just some of it). Let’s further assume they had to pay an exact match penalty, in other words, give up exactly as much money as they spent above the cap (again, we’ll assume it’s the full thing: $3.5 million) to the league fund. That’s only $42 million to be split among the league’s poorest teams.
  • If the NHL really wants to embrace revenue sharing based on profitability, they’ll need more than small cap penalties: they’ll need something dramatic. But at this point I’m sure the big market owners will object to any further changes. They don’t want to have to give up profits from concessions so that the Florida Panthers can spend to the cap floor. In order to see this kind of revenue sharing between rich and poor owners, the league will really have to create some very specific and very rules regarding what is “hockey revenue” and what isn’t. Further, this determination needs to be made by the owners who will likely try to minimize the kinds of hockey revenue in every way possible, which could still lead to shrinking revenues in the NHL.

Those are the really big points but they do trickle down into the other issues: limiting contract lengths, limiting signing bonuses, etc. The owners want to limit contracts and force players into longer entry-level contracts with especially longer RFA periods. The players are on the exact opposite side of the issue. The PA plan does not limit contract length nor does it limit front-loading, these techniques have been instrumental in improving player prosperity in the salary capped era, even though it costs many smaller market teams the opportunity to sign the biggest free agents.

As far as I know, all the information surrounding the NHLPA CBA proposal so far has to deal with financials so I don’t know if my prediction that player safety will be an important component is true or not. The NFL made it a big point of contention during labor negotiations and I think their efforts were well worth it. Yes, it is boring now that almost every kickoff goes for a touchback and players can get penalized for tackling too hard, but I think it did make for a safer league, which ought to be the most important part.

To summarize the NHLPA’s CBA proposal in one word, it would be “smart,” rather than just retaliating with an equally insulting offer to the owners. The NHLPA really did its homework and presented something that was cohesive and informed. It needs to be noted though that this is an entirely unilateral proposal and it creates all measure of benefits to the players and very regularly takes them at the expense of the owners. Whether or not you think NHL owners are evil and whether or not you think that Gary Bettman is the Anti-Christ, the players are not 100% “right” in what they want. Now that both sides have outlined what they think needs to happen, it’s time to see if a resolution can be reached before the start of training camp on September 15. Scary thought, we’re less than a month away from that now. A couple more news bits below. Read the rest of this entry »


Oh Wow the Rangers Traded for a Guy that Scored Three More Points than Pascal Dupuis, Weber Staying in Nashville

So the Rangers finally made the deal to bring in Rick Nash. I’ll give them credit for getting great value in the trade. They gave up Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tom Erixon, and a first round pick and they got a dominant scoring forward, plus an AHL defenseman, and a third round pick in next year’s draft. Wow. The Blue Jackets screwed this one up pretty bad. I was pretty sure they were asking for way more than that, and now to hear what the Rangers give up is almost sad. I mean the Pens could have offered two third-liners, a defensive prospect, and a first round pick. Oh well, c’est la vie. You can’t tell me that this is that epic of a signing for the Rangers.

From NHL.com

Nash is a great player, but he’s never really come close to living up to the hype that he is reported to have. His career best production is 79 points in a season, his greatest goal total, even with most of his games played after the “Dead Puck Era” is 41. I understand that he’s never played on a great team, but that’s not really an excuse. A very large percentage of media types have said that Nash is the “best power forward” in the NHL. If Nash counts as a power forward then I’m sure that his new rivals James Neal (81 points in 80 games) and Scott Hartnell (67 in 82) will have a lot to say about that. Not counting guys like Milan Lucic, Chris Stewart, Shane Doan, and others who are more “pure-bred” in that role.

Nash put up 59 points last year, that’s uninspired honestly. I mean it’s not like he was having health issues, he played in all 82 games last year give him a PPG output of .72. I mean his team wasn’t very good, but he didn’t exactly lift up the team’s burden on his own as a proper captain should. I understand that he also won’t have to be Captain of the Rangers, but so what. After James Neal came to the Penguins people said that he was going to be a 25-30 goal guy because he had played with Brad Richards in Dallas and Richards was about as good of a puck distributer as there is in the NHL. With a full season alongside Evgeni Malkin Neal became a 40 goal scorer and increased his career best point production by 26 points. So what does that mean? Is Malkin that much better than Richards? Yes, he is. Is Richards overrated? Yes, he is. Is Brad Richards going to make Rick Nash that much better again? I really doubt it.

Are the Rangers better now? Yes. They cut out Dubinsky who can be as destructive to his own team as he can to opposing players, and they cut out Artem Anisimov who can be an absolute game-breaker or completely invisible for an entire game. They’re replacing all of that with a game-changing winger with untapped potential. That means they’re better, but this was already an incredible team last year, they led the Eastern Conference from November until the end of the season. They went to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins were 5-0-1 against them this year. That’s still the story as far as I’m concerned.

In other news, the Predators announced today that they have officially matched the Flyers’ offer sheet on Shea Weber and he will be playing at least all of next year in Nashville. The Preds can’t trade him next year, but after that he’s fair game. The only disincentive to trading him is that after the Preds pay him $26 million over the next one calendar year between 2 bonuses and his $14 million salary, they probably won’t need to trade him as much. To me this isn’t a big surprise. If anything the Preds get a better contract on Weber than they would have independently—he’s signed for 14 years. That’s ridiculous. I don’t care if the Flyers had “promised” to trade away roster players to the Preds in order to get their first round picks back, if the Preds decide that they don’t want to keep him, they will get a much better return on investment to actually trade the player than to trade draft picks.

Just saying, but you have to assume the Flyers are going to come back even more angry now. Expect something like a ludicrous, $6 million a season, offer to Shane Doan or a renewed interest in Bobby Ryan. Personally I hope it will be a trade for Ryan. It would likely have to include a defenseman and either Brayden Schenn or Matt Read, or in other words, a gross overpayment. Here’s to hoping.

Mike pointed this article out to me yesterday and I think it is very topical. Yes, it mostly attacks the Flyers, which I love to do, but they definitely aren’t the only villains like this. It isn’t fair for the small market owners who legitimately aren’t making a lot of money to be punished by the big market owners with deeper pockets. It especially isn’t fair for big market owners to pretend to care about the same cuts that small market owners need in order to be competitive. Will anything be done about it though? Probably not.

I think the thing that deserves mentioning is just the way that the Penguins don’t do that. They offer normal contracts, they don’t front load every player on their roster, the first and only time it’s been done is in Sid’s new contract, and you even get the sense that they may not do it again even with Evgeni Malkin. I mean is there a reason to? If Malkin is dominant again next year, he’s going to be the highest paid player in the league anyway; do you have a reason to cheat on that? Probably not. On the flip side, is there a reason why the Penguins shouldn’t be following the form of the Flyers or the Wild and trying to cheat the best players away from their small market teams? I mean the Penguins have a ton of cash assets (250 consecutive sellouts), they’re owned by a billionaire (well Ron Burkle is). I don’t know what the right answer is, I respect the Penguins for not doing it, but I don’t want to see us drop in competitiveness because of morals that don’t matter.


Gasp! Some Real Hockey News…

As I (Andrew) said in my incredibly brief SCF preview, I was on vacation all last week, and Mike has been busy making the adjustment to his big boy job, as a result we’ve let some real hockey news stories slide by. In light of the Penguins doing something I’m going to attempt to remedy that. After the break, the SCF so far, stealing directly from thePensblog, Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, Tomas Vokoun, and some more thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »


A Little Bit About Trading Jordan Staal

Well I said last week that I didn’t really want to deal with team turnover until we got closer to the NHL draft and maybe even closer to the July 1 free agency period. Unfortunately the professional hockey media has decided to change my plans for me and start talking about it already. So we’ll just take a look at a couple things. Check it out after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »


Gameday – Quarterfinals Round #5 – Flyers

Home game.

Well again, unfortunately neither Mike nor I actually got to see a whole lot of the game. We were both playing a show last night so that kind of put a damper on it. The crucial thing is that we got to see right from when TK took his penalty in the 3rd, which by all accounts was the key. As you more than likely know, the Penguins pulled it out 3-2, with an absolutely amazing third period from MAF. Again, in the absence of in-game thoughts to go off of, I’m just gonna recap this with some general impressions.

Read the rest of this entry »


Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #2 – Flyers

Home game.

This game isn’t must win for the Pens, but it’s close.

First Period:

Fifteen seconds, Sid, incredible. Ties the team record for the quickest goal in the playoffs, also moved him into a tie for fourth with Ron Francis for goals in the postseason. Nice.

Pens are hustling. Beautiful shift by the fourth line, Adams dumped it in, chased it down, and then they just held it for like 45 seconds, nice. This is absolutely textbook for what you need to do against the Flyers.

First PP chance: the Pens have gone back to the unit from the majority of the season, Kunitz-Malkin-Neal up front, Sullivan and Letang on the points. Kunitz hustling in front of the net, goal city. Let’s not mince words, it was a thing of beauty, and it worked because of the connection between those five guys. Root Sports showed Sid on the bench, he looked like a proud papa, beautiful.

Before you know it, Pens are right back on the PP, Nick Grossman getting picked on a little bit. Not quite as good, but it happens. Letang had an incredible opportunity, Bryzgalov pulled it back from halfway across the line. Then things got really weird, Letang was talking to the ref about the shot, Matt Read came over and laid his stick into Letang. Letang went down, probably because he was totally caught off guard. The linesman called a dive on Letang from the other side of the ice. Should have been a two man advantage for the Pens, ended up even, awesome.

From there the Flyers just went all out to score short-handed. They did. Talbot. Really impressed that he could get back that quick with all that money weighing him down.

Less than a minute, the Pens are buzzing. Sid breaks out. Little saucer, drop pass, ends up on Paul Martin’s stick. Held it perfectly, little screen by Jordan Staal. Goal. Great bounce back for Martin who didn’t have a good game on Wednesday.

Some really insane hits in this period, some were definitely a bit border-line. Have to draw attention to Letang’s insane hip-check on Zac Rinaldo. That really put his panties in a bunch. Next shift he tried to step on Malkin after he had been knocked over. Really should have been a major penalty, maybe I’m just biased, but if you’re looking for a “hit with the intent to injure” please look at that play. After attempting to step on Malkin he went over and hit Kunitz with his stick up at head level. Neither were called. I don’t want to whine about every missed call, and I understand full well that we got lucky on the first PP opportunity, Grossman took the penalty for retaliating on a pretty bad trip by Malkin, but Rinaldo is dangerous.

Second Period:

Alright, I take back what I said about RInaldo, his goony-ness has made him such a liability to the Flyers that I hope he plays every game. Really bad hooking call against him on Engelland. Pens weren’t able to capitalize on the PP but this is was beautifully executed. The Pens dominated with the top unit, then they got to send out a unit with Sid-Staal-Cooke up front and Martin and Sully on the points for the second half, it just worked.

Unfortunately, right after that, Crosby sort of got forced into interfering with Grossman after some miscommunication with Cooke. Flyers’ power play is really good. Giroux, don’t know what else to say.

Talbot had a breakaway. This time he got tired halfway there. Must have cashed in a performance bonus.

Schenn took a really ill-advised penalty, cross-check to the back of Crosby. Started really bad, somehow the Flyers come out of their zone short-handed on a 3-on-2. Giroux again. Tied again. Butt-clench time. Didn’t last long, 6 seconds later, Malkin wins the face-off going forward. Dishes to Neal, good shot, totally pulls Bryzgalov out of position, open cage for Kunitz. Incredible resiliency. Remember this play.

Letang had to make a play to prevent a rush, batted the puck out of the air in his own zone, didn’t catch any glass. Right back to butt-clench. No worries. Killed. Penguins finally looking like they have a plan for the Flyer’s PP.

End of the period, bad news. 2.8 seconds left, Pens couldn’t get a clear. Courturier sends one home. Period could of gone worse, but we also got outscored 3-1 and pretty much got torn apart on special teams. Third period is going to define everything.

Third Period:

Biggest period of hockey the Pens have played this year.

Great start, about one minute into the period, Tyler Kennedy. Incredible. He really has started to come on so strong down the stretch.

Well, that didn’t last long. Fleury needed to make that save. Maybe it wasn’t a good pass or a good decision by Lovejoy, but I mean Couturier had nowhere to go with the puck. Fleury gave him a place to go to by going down for no apparent reason. Back to a tie. 5-5. Whoever can make fewer mistakes down the stretch is going to win this game.

A lot of back and forth. Again, this isn’t going to favor the Pens. There’s no doubt that we were the league leaders in goal scoring during the regular season. But we aren’t our best on the rush. We’re better when we can control the play. Right now we really aren’t doing that.

Jagr. The Pens just don’t have an answer for this top line of the Flyers. They simply don’t. I understand it came off an icing. I understand that the Flyers got to skate around with 6 men on the ice for half a minute with the puck in plain view of the bench area. The fact of the matter is, you know the refs clearly aren’t even on this planet. The fact of the matter is, you have to get through that. The Pens haven’t, I don’t know what more you can do.

Neal almost poked one home. Instead turned into a 2-on-1 for the Flyers, Giroux to Courturier, Fleury played it wrong again. First time in his career he’s ever let up 7 goals in one game.

Giroux with an empty netter. 3 goals, 3 assists. Remarkable.

GAME.

A Few Thoughts:

Fleury played horrible. One of the very worst games he’s probably ever played in his entire career. I mean he didn’t make one save that mattered. Anytime it came down to Fleury or the Flyers, it was always the Flyers. Every single time. That’s not what we as Pens fans have come to expect. That’s not what Fleury has made us believe. You could see how pissed he was. I’m writing this moments from the end of the game, and yes I’m probably more emotionally on edge than I should be. But if you ask me, there is no way you put Fleury back in there on Sunday. You don’t give up 7 goals in a game and get the opportunity to start the next one.

This series is still a long way from being over, but this is going to be tough. The Pens aren’t playing good defense, for all the money we’ve invested in the defense, for all of the depth the Pens are said to have at defense, they have cost the Pens these two games. Hell, the forwards have been incredible, our top three lines have all produced admirably. Special teams suck. 2 short-handers this game, there is no way to win in that scenario. Beyond that Fleury is off his game.

The Gutless Line played awesome, when they got the chance. Vitale didn’t play in the 3rd, doesn’t seem smart to me, he is probably the biggest weapon at the Penguins’ disposal just because of what he means to the Flyers.

Alright pretty much all of my pep talk has come true. Both Talbot and Jagr have burned the Pens. There have been a lot of bad calls. There have been soft goals. Now that we’ve gotten that all out of the way, time to take care of business.

Sorry for the lack of media. As with the last one, I’m not lingering on this game any longer than I have to. Better luck next time.

Next game is at 3:00 on Sunday in Philly. Flyers’ had a better record on the road than at home this season, good. Flyers are incredibly bad in day games. Go Pens.