Friday, June 29, 2007

Salary Cap Shenanigans

Why was the 2004-05 NHL season lost? Who should get the blame? Was it Gary Bettman and the league or Goodenow and the union that was dealing in bad faith? Recent events might sharpen the hindsight.

So today this AP headline and story is flashed all over sports news:

NHL salary cap rises to $50.3 million for next season -- The NHL salary cap will rise to $50.3 million per team next season, an increase of $6.3 million from last season, the league and players' union announced Friday.

It's the second increase under the collective bargaining agreement that ended the yearlong lockout in 2005.

The key issue in the lockout that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season was the owners' insistence to include a salary cap and the players' association's unwillingness to accept it. The union finally gave in, and has had a financial windfall.

Teams don't have to spend up to the ceiling, but each club's payroll must be at least $34.3 million. The range from top to bottom is always $16 million...
The NHL team salary cap has progressed as follows:
$39 million for the 2005-06 season
$44 million for the 2006-07 season [12.82% increase from 05-06]
$50.3 million for the 2007-08 season [14.32% increase]
The 2004-05 season was cancelled after the league's last offer as specified in this letter from Commissioner Gary Bettman to Robert Goodenow, Executive Director of the NHL Player's Association, was rejected.
February 15, 2005

Mr. Robert Goodenow
Executive Director
National Hockey League
Players' Association
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Bob:
We attempted to reach out to you with yesterday's offer of a team maximum cap of $42.2MM ($40MM in salary and $2.2MM in benefits) which was not linked to League-wide revenues. As Bill told Ted, "de-linking" a maximum team salary cap from League revenues and total League-wide player compensation has always been problematic for us, especially since we cannot now quantify the damage to the League from the lockout. This presents the risk we will pay out more than we can afford. As you know, if all 30 teams were to spend to the maximum we proposed, and if the damage to our business is as we discussed at our meetings in New York, then the League would continue to lose money.

I know, as do you, that the "deal" we can make will only get worse for the players if we cancel the season -- whatever damage we have suffered to date will pale in comparison to the damage from a cancelled season and we will certainly not be able to afford what is presently on the table. Accordingly, I am making one final effort to reach out to make a deal that will let us play this season.

We are increasing our offer of yesterday by increasing the maximum individual team cap to $44.7MM ($42.5MM in salary and $2.2MM in benefits). This offer is not an invitation to begin negotiations -- it's too late for that. This is our last effort to make a deal that's fair to the players and one that the Clubs (hopefully) can afford. We have no more flexibility and there is no time for further negotiation.If this offer is acceptable, please let me know by 11:00 A.M. tomorrow, in advance of my scheduled press conference. Hopefully, the press conference will not be necessary.

Sincerely,
Gary B. Bettman
Commissioner
After the $44.7 million offer was rejected by the union, Gary Bettman summarized the failed negotiations this way:
Bettman rejected the notion that a compromise was evident for both parties at a salary cap of $45 million-$46 million. He insisted that pushing his offer to $42.5 million on a salary cap stretched his teams' resources. Both sides pulled their last offer off the table.

"In one additional last-ditch effort to try to save the season, I gave an offer of another $2.5 million," Bettman said. "We were stretching to get there because we were projecting that under that deal, we would probably lose money for the next two years. ... When the union came back at $49 million, it was clear that there was no basis upon which we could make a deal."
Bettman said a salary cap of $42.5 million per year plus another $2.2 million in benefits would stretch teams so bad that they would "lose money for the next two years." And the union's $49 million offer was "no basis" for a deal. However, here it is two years latter and the league is getting very little TV revenue, but they announce the salary cap is getting bumped up by $6.3 million to $50.3 million per team. Where are the welfare checks for the teams going broke under a salary cap that is escalating on average 13.6% per year?

It seems very clear that Bettman's financial forecasting was wrong. The 2004-05 season did not have to be sacrificed like it was by Mr. Bettman.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Comings And Goings

The Ranger plan is now clear heading into free agency. It started with not picking up Karel Rachunek's option for about 1.8 mil and continues in the refusal to sign Michael Nylander prior to the start of the free agency free for all. There are rumors that Nylander has signed an extension. The Rachunek refusal is key on two counts. Number one it opens up 1.8 mil in cap space and number two it opens up a spot on the backline. It gives some hope to Thomas Pock and Marc Staal and other young defensemen trying to make the team.

It is clear that the Rangers are going for the daily double. They want it all. They want both Chris Drury and Scotty Gomez. Guess what? So do Ranger fans. The competition for the services of Drury and Gomez will be fierce. The only advantage the Rangers may have, notice I say may have, is that both have expressed strong opinions about playing for the Rangers. Does this matter? It might if the contract numbers are not too far off.

Can the Rangers afford both? The combined yearly salary of the two will probably run somewhere in the 12-16 million dollar area. Can the Rangers afford to do this? Can they afford not to do it? Should be a most interesting free agency period for Ranger fans.

One sad item of note is that there doesn't seem to be any intention of signing Jed Ortmeyer. I say sad because Ortmeyer is a true Ranger and a big fan favorite who never mails it in and is one of the top penalty killers around and the way the Rangers continue to take stupid penalties he will be sorely missed. Good luck Jed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

BINGO!!!

ALEXEI CHEREPANOVHow else to describe the Rangers success in the draft? Jackpot? Lottery? Anyway you cut it it has to be one of the more satisfying drafts the Rangers have had in years. Alexei Cherepanov is rated as the number one skater out of Europe. He broke Pavel Bure's rookie record of 17 goals with 18. He is knicknamed the Siberian Express as Bure was named the Russian Rocket. If he is half as exciting as Bure it should be some fun years at the Garden. In the Russian Super League he scored more points in his first year than did Malkin (Pittsburgh), Ovechkin (Washington) and Kovalchuk (Atlanta).

Cherepanov is 6', 183 lbs, is a great skater with great hands. So how come he lasted til the 17th pick? I believe the other teams were scared off by the Russian Federation and also the inability to shell out the big bucks. The Rangers now have to deal with the Russian Federation and work out some money deal. It should be no big deal. Malkin pulled it off to play with the Penguins. All in all it looks like at least two years before we see Alexei in a Ranger uniform, but who knows for sure. However, judging by how the Rangers worked with Callahan, Dubinsky, Dawes and others it wont be too soon for Alexei to be seen in a Blue shirt. The Ranger fans will have another Alexei to cheer for and hope he is not the enigma the other Alexei, Kovalev, was.

The other great pick was goalie prospect Antoine Lafleur of the QMJHL. He had a GAA of 2.97. He is no relation to the great Guy Lafleur. He is a big goalie at 6'4" and 186 lbs. If he proves he can stop pucks it would bolster the chances of the Rangers making a blockbuster trade before the start of the season. Could you live with Montoya, Prucha and some draft picks for Vinnie Lecavalier? I could. Tampa Bay needs a goalie and Montoya is an excellent prospect. After all what is Montoya's future with the Rangers? Backup to Lundqvist? I don't think the kid would like that.

Lundqvist is a restricted free agent but he isn't going anywhere. He and the Rangers are negotiating for a long term deal. If the Islanders could give Dipietro 15 years what do you think Lundqvist is worth? Lundqvist should be a Ranger goalie for life. The only one to have that distinction was Mike Richter though Eddie Giacomin should have had that honor also. With a guy like Lundqvist doesn't it make sense for the Rangers to try to bolster their front line by dealing away a fine goalie prospect who has low prospects for cracking the job as the number one goaltender? What do you think?

ICINGS:

NY Rangers: Alexei Cherepanov


Monday, June 11, 2007

I May Be Wrong..... But.....

Has Michael Nylander signed his exit out of the Garden by demanding a $4 Million plus deal per year? Is he worth it? The Rangers might decide to jettison Jaromir Jagr's buddy and go for a grand slam by signing Chris Drury of Buffalo and Scotty Gomez of the Devils. Then the two of them could fight and see who works better with Jagr and who becomes number 1 and who becomes 1A. Should be interesting.

Islander fans always seem happier when one of their 'heroes' leave the team. Look how ecstatic they are over Alexei Yashin being cut from the team. Remember they originally gave him a ten year contract. Then they were happy when Mike Milbury left and of course there was Neil Smith and before that there was Don Maloney. It seems everyone is happy when Maloney leaves.

Maybe Sather won't be too happy to see Maloney leave. Bringing in Messier will upset the applecart. Messier blew the whistle on Roger Neilson. He will blow the whistle on Tom Renney and that is good news for Ranger fans. Messier is an action oriented doer not a watcher. He may be the only hope for the demise of Glen Sather.

Alex Stray Rod's antics always reminds me of the late great sports writer for the New Post, Jimmy Cannon's great line, "Why do guys with good looking wives cheat with ugly broads?" Speaking of ARod, isn't it amazing how hot he is in a walk year? Re-sign him and he'll go back into the tank.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed recently refused to talk to the VP, Dick Cheney. His comment was, why talk to a guy with a 35% approval rating. The latest poll showed Dingy Harry with a 19% approval rating. That rating entitles Reed to talk to Don Imus, in a telephone booth.

Wasn't that smart of the Yankees and Roger Clemens to 'groin up' just before the White Sox game and save him for pathetic Pittsburgh. The test will come against the Mets who are planning to bring back Mike 'Broken Bat' Piazza for a reunion.

I want to see Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal and Ivan Baranka on the ice on opening night at MSG.

Would you believe about ninety days left for the opening faceoff? Did anyone besides Mike Emerick watch any of the playoff games? I think they should put the games on Nick at Nite. All the kids watch Nick at Nite and the ratings are three times what the hockey ratings are.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Comings And Goings

So it finally happened and Don Maloney is leaving the Rangers for a promotion (?) to the GM post of the Phoenix Coyotes. Supposedly Sather made a counter offer but Maloney is leaving anyway. Must of been some offer. Actually Maloney did the Rangers a favor as they now have the open spot that Mark Messier needs to reach his ultimate objective of being a GM. Isn't that what Sather said when Messier expressed an interest in becoming a GM? Something to the effect that Messier would need to be prepped prior to becoming a GM. Now Sather is in a dilemna. Hire Messier as the assistant and know one day he will push Sather out the door or don't hire him, save his job, and be called a phoney for suggesting that Messier would need the experience of an assistant to become the GM. What do you think? What road will Glen Sather take?

What of Phoenix and Maloney? Can Maloney do the job? Last time he had this job he bombed. That is the bad news. The good news was that he was the GM of the Islanders so it was good he bombed. Now he will be the boss of the man, Gretzky, who really is his boss. Huh! Remember Gretzky is an owner of the Coyotes and thus will pay Maloney's paycheck while Maloney is supposedly evaluating his coach, Gretzky, who is also his boss. Anyone remember that old song, "I'm my own Grandpa"?

So Chris Pronger gets a game suspension for an elbow to the head of Dean McAmmond. He also got a game suspension for an elbow to the head of Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom in the Conference Finals. Is there a pattern here? Perhaps a couple of games would have been more appropriate being that it is becoming a pattern of his play. And what if McAmmond is unable to play tonight? Pronger should be sitting out as long as McAmmond sits out plus one game more. Of course Pronger gave the obligatory excuse that it was a reaction play and I didn't mean to hit him that high, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah. And of course the refs who missed the elbows didn't miss a simple hook or hold.

Will Michael Nylander upset Glen Sather's applecart by holding him up for a lucrative new contract? It looked like an easy re-sign as Nylander fit in nicely with Jagr, who likes Nylander. That helps. Sather signed Straka and ignored Nylander. Then Nylander came on like gangbusters at the end of the season and was the Rangers top scorer in the playoffs putting more shots on goal. Now Nylander is hiring a new agent and may test the free agency market. How about those apples? With the Rangers needing a second line center and looking at Druery and Gomez this news will raise the price of poker during the free agency season. Stay tuned.

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