Some Thoughts On He Who Shall Not Be Paid
No, this is not another rumor as we don’t have any updates for our anxious readers. I did want to provide some financial perspective on the situation, however. On the negative side, it strikes me that the hold out by HWSNBP cannot be divorced from the pending expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement at the conclusion of this season. As I’ve discussed in two previous posts, the current deal likely does not work for many of the smaller market teams and those saddled with heavy debts not offset by cash flows from related businesses, AEG’s real estate empire, for example. The rising salary floor is putting real pressure on several teams who are either being put on the block, moving to a new market or whose continued existence is in doubt. I predict that the owners are going to exercise their right to terminate the current CBA after this season which means it will have to be renegotiated. Meanwhile, the players have hired Donald Fehr to head the NHLPA, and he is a man who has a history of playing hardball in negotiations with the Major League Baseball owners. This could get quite messy.
The possibility of more labor turmoil has to be part of the subtext in the negotiations between Don Meehan and Dean Lombardi. It is impossible to predict whether any games or an entire season will be lost or what a new CBA will look like, but both parties in the discussions cannot entirely dismiss the possibility that the constraints they are under could look very different starting with the 2012-2013 season. For instance, Dean Lombardi needs to cognizant of the fact that the salary cap may not continue to increase by the 8.8% it has averaged since the end of the lockout. Likewise, HWSNBP’s agent has to worry about a scenario where the cap is reduced in order to assuage some of the smaller market owners. Remember, the last CBA cut compensation on all existing player contracts by 24% for their entire length. This possibly explains why Meehan is looking to take every last penny off the table. At the end of the day, HWSNBP’s contract will reflect his current (and potential) value to the Kings, but it is important to remember that the current economic rules of the game could very easily change, complicating already difficult circumstances.
Another aspect of this story which has been speculated on is whether an offer sheet might break this wide open. It is my strong belief that this is something we as Kings’ fans do not need to worry about (despite Scribe’s insistence that is could happen). If you look at the 2011-2012 salary charts courtesy of Capgeek, there are 18 teams who are close enough to the cap that they would have to lose significant salary before taking on a contract like HWSNBP’s. Most importantly, this list contains all of the large market, highest spending teams. With the start of the season less than a month away, I believe it is unlikely that teams are going to make major changes to their roster that the signing of HWSNBP would entail. Besides, with all teams above the salary floor, there is not a long line suitors looking to take on another club’s bad contract in a salary dump this close to the start of the season.
There are 11 teams that have the cap space to sign an elite defenseman, but this list contains teams in real financial trouble (Phoenix), on the block and being dressed up for sale (Dallas and St. Louis) and that play in some of the smallest markets (Florida). The only two teams I see that could conceivably tender an offer sheet are Minnesota and Ottawa. Both teams play in strong Hockey markets, have plenty of cap space and could use additions to the blue line. On the other hand, neither is close to competing for the Cup with the Senators in full rebuild mold and both lack the beach and other amenities that HWSNBP has grown to enjoy. Remember, there has to be mutual agreement for an offer sheet to take effect. But, this gets to the main reason why HWSNBP is not going anywhere. With the Kings, both the player and the team know each other well and what role HWSNBP is most comfortable playing. Thus, it is less of a gamble for the Kings to sign their star since they know what they are getting for their investment. At the same time, by going to another team with a huge contract to live up to, HWSNBP is going to be under tremendous pressure to be ‘The Guy’ right away in a new system and with unfamiliar teammates. The familiarity of the known is why players often accept a home town discount as human beings are naturally averse to change. Ultimately, I believe HWSNBP is going to remain a King, and it still comes down to the numbers.