07/11/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
Summer had been good in 2015 for the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons in a very exciting series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 2015 Draft saw perhaps the best player since Sidney Crosby 10 years ago to enter the NHL as Connor McDavid was selected with the 1st overall pick by Edmonton. And July began with the annual free agent frenzy that causes excitement across all of the league's 30 cities. Not only was the free agency period full of big names signing with new teams, it also featured some blockbuster trades. Phil Kessel going to Pittsburgh from Toronto and Brandon Saad moving from Chicago to Columbus were the two headliners that had hockey fans across the globe talking.
But then there were 2 other trades that got people talking too. Philadelphia traded Chris Pronger to Arizona as part of a multi player deal. And Boston traded Marc Savard to Florida as part of another trade. The problem being, Pronger and Savard haven't played since 2011. Savard's contract carried a $4 million dollar salary cap hit through the 2016/2017 season. Pronger's contract carries a nearly $5 million dollar cap hit through 2016/2017 as well. Neither will play a game with their new teams due to career ending injuries.
And this is the kind of nonsense that makes hockey fans shake their heads at the NHL and their salary cap. Instituting a salary cap is what wiped out the 2004/2005 NHL season. Revamping it was partially responsible for the lockout that erased half of the 2012/2013 season. But despite the price the league, it's teams, it's players, and it's fans paid to have a salary cap in place to even the playing field and make the NHL more competitive, jokes like these two trades are still allowed to occur. Part of the salary cap is obviously that each team can only spend so much per season, thus to prevent big market teams from buying their way to championships. It also makes teams wary of signing players to high dollar contracts over long terms without having to worry about future consequences, because that salary will count against the salary cap until the contract expires. The other part is the cap floor, which requires each team to spend a certain amount per season. This prevents teams from fielding the equivalency of an AHL team both talent and salary wise. These two trades spit in the face of what those 2 main parameters of what having a salary cap is supposed to prevent.
By allowing these types of trades to happen, both the Flyers and the Bruins who are up against the salary cap, just found nearly $5 and $4 million in cap room respectively. Both Arizona and Florida, who weren't at the cap floor, are now closer to what they technically have to spend under the salary cap. But they won't actually be spending that much, since both players will actually be paid less than $600,000 each per season for the remaining terms of their contracts.
This is an embarrassment It's a joke. And it shouldn't be accepted. But it is, and it wasn't on Commissioner Gary Bettman's to do list to make things better in the NHL this off season. Installing a 3 on 3 overtime was (which is beyond stupid and ridiculous), but fixing this nonsense that allows teams to skirt the salary cap was not. The fact the NHL still has a team in Arizona is joke in itself, and is almost all due to Bettman's doing. The league actually owned the team before selling it to it's current ownership, which is now having issues with the City of Glendale and the team's arena lease. When the NHL brought a team back to Winnipeg (which is where the Coyotes franchise came from) they allowed the Thrashers to leave Atlanta to become the reincarnation of the Jets without putting any near the kind of effort to find new ownership that was put into keeping the Coyotes in Arizona. The right move was to send the Coyotes back to Winnipeg and trying to find stable ownership to at least try and keep the team in Atlanta. If they couldn't, there are several cities (Seattle, Quebec, Kansas City) where the Thrashers could've gone if a stable ownership group to keep them in Atlanta couldn't be found. But as has been almost a staple of his recent tenure, Bettman made the wrong decisions.
The NHL needs to make some changes. Those changes need to start at the top.
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