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How will it happen & what does it mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
In a memo released in September of this year, the Chief Operating Officer of the NHL notified all league employees of initiatives and staff changes to take effect during the 2013-2014 season. In the memo the league identified a plan to increase annual gross national revenue by $1 billion dollars by the end of three years, or in other words, in time for the 2016-2017 season. To put that type of increase in perspective, it had previously taken the league from 2005-06 to 2011-12 – or 6 years – to attain the same revenue growth. Forget linear growth, we’re talking exponential revenue growth here, folks.
AfterÂ months of political manoeuvring and speculation… and pending ratification, Donald Fehr appears primed to formally take office as the Executive Director of the NHLPA with the Ilya Kovalchuk saga providing an appropriate backdrop. Despite having earlier dismissed himself as a candidate for the role, the former MLBPA hardliner is now expected to spearhead the players union through the next series of collective bargaining negotiations in 2012.
Either a spectre to be feared, or a challenge to be relished for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, one wonders if the league office wishes it had treated the ailing NHLPA with kid gloves following the late, late night coup that saw former figurehead Paul Kelly overthrown in August 2009.
*Warning:Â More analysis and opinionÂ concerning the Kovalchuk decision. For those who want to talk hockey, as opposed to the now perpetual indiscretions of the league office etc. Alex has a post beneath.
When Richard Bloch decided to rule in the favour of the NHL in the case of Ilya Kovalchuk and the ridiculous contract, he set in place a new precedent that the league hope will stem the flow of cap-circumventing front loaded contracts. In lieu of a concrete definition, the cover-all bases nature of Blochâ€™s ruling was expected to draw a line under the types of long, frontloaded contracts the NHL saw as detrimental to the spirit of equality the CBA and its salary cap was supposed to theoretically harbour.
Now that the NHL has won the arbitration award based on “salary cap circumvention” with the Kovalchuk situation, they are ready to tackle the rest of the league. A year (and perhaps in a few occasions more than a year) ago, specific contracts were approved by the league and now the league has decided to reevaluate those contracts to determine if they too circumvent the salary cap.
Â As the systemic dismantling of this summerâ€™s Stanley Cup champions continues in earnest, league watchers are crying foul. Where detractors of the current, hard revenue based cap once denounced the communistic, unilateral sharing of league revenue as the prime illustration of illogic in the CBA (alongside the long-long term contract loopholes), Mondayâ€™s exit of Antti Niemi from the Chicago Blackhawks has helped turn the club into the latest martyrâ€™s of the cap.
- If the TSN reports that Frolov could sign a 1 year deal comparable to that of Afinogenov last season ($800,000) are true, then why weren’t the Maple Leafs heavily involved in discussions with Frolov’s agent? He’s a big guy who can win some pucks, plays a well-rounded game and would fit perfectly in the top line left wing role at a bargain basement price. Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about a deteriorating market? This potential signing may just be the beginning.
- The Toronto Sun reports that the Maple Leafs’ Rookie tournament will take place at the John Labatt Centre in London from September 11th-14th this year.
- The Hockey News makes the case for the Maple Leafs as a surprise playoff team this coming season.
- On to the FanPosts. Andrew Edwards (AKA Crazyaces) proposes a solution for these ridiculous long-term contracts, while Michael Cuttell continues his preseason synopsis by evaluating the Leafs’ current forward group.
Ilya Kovalchukâ€™s record breaking 17 year, $102 Million deal has been shot down by the NHL for reasons of cap circumvention (per TSN).Â To brass tacks the article, the NHL put the kybosh on Lou and his Swamp Band on the grounds that the deal was being proposed and executed outside of good faith.
In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.
When Brian Burke added Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin to an established Leafs cast of Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White and Jeff Finger it looked to all that the Toronto GM had built himself an enviable problem. A premium blueline, arguably one of the finest in the Eastern Conference, that also came with a premium price tag.
Of course, what began an enviable problem on paper quickly devolved into an actual problem when the new additions failed to mesh into a cohesive unit with defensive and special team frailties more apparent than those of an comparatively budget offense.
Even with news breaking this afternoon of Ilya Kovalchuk’s new $60 million contract extension (potentially) with the New Jersey Devils, this 2010 free agency period has been one of the most uneventful and slow-developing offseasons in recent memory. The reason being? Despite a mediocre at best free agent group, there simply isn’t enough money to pay these guys what they’re probably worth. As one unnamed NHL General Manager put it last week: “The teams with cap don’t have cash and the teams with cash don’t have cap”. The Maple Leafs however, are fortunate enough to have both, and have the opportunity to exploit the market to their advantage.
Bad news. According to the fine folks over at CapGeek, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t the only team facing cap penalties next season. Here are the basics: a team is allowed to surpass the official salary cap by a “bonus cushion” maxmium of 7.5% for performance bonuses, such as those written into virtually every rookie contract. However, this number is then deducted from your maximum salary cap allowance for the following season.
For example, since winning the Cup, the Blackhawks received plenty of media attention when it was pointed out that Toews’ bonus for the Conn Smythe, among others, would push them well over the cap limit. As a result, the Blackhawks will face a $4.157 million penalty for this upcoming season. The Maple Leafs meanwhile will also have $1.4 million deducted from their limit this coming season, thus setting an internal budget at $58 million rather than the league wide $59.4 million.
Brian Burke is a pretty smart guy. Months ago, he explained to the fans and media that while the current free agent market is weak, it could get stronger as cap strapped teams are unable to submit qualifying offers to some prominent restricted free agents. One such player could be Andrew Ladd, and there could be several other names in play as well. Follow me as a I crunch some numbers to figure out why.
In the wake of Sunday’s blockbuster trades, one cannot help but wonder what’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Who’s next to go? Who stays?
In any case, I think that it’s pretty safe to say that this season is a write-off. We’re not making any moves to make a run at the playoffs this season. So, let’s look forward and take a look at what the Maple Leafs should look like next season.
Being a General Manager of an NHL Hockey team is quite similar to sitting down at a high rollers table at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and having a marathon session of no-limit hold’em poker versus some of the biggest and meanest sharks in the ocean.
With a Leafs team stuck in the bottom 5 of the league from the first day of the season, and after public proclamations of being aggressive at the draft and public and vocal assurances that he has built one of the better defensive units in the East.Â Additional proclamations that it would be reasonable to expect the Leafs to compete for the playoffs this year, spending right up to the salary cap, trading away the clubs next 2 1st round picks and trading away some of the organizations mostly highly thought of prospects for practically zero return, it is safe to say at this point, that if being an NHL General Manager were a game of poker, Mr Burke is “All In” and has absolutely zero chance of winning this round.Â He has been effectively cleaned out.
There is a silver lining however, as Mr Burke is flush, sitting on a recently signed multi-year, multi-million dollar deal and has an opportunity to buy back into the game and try again.
A dreadful 3-11-5 start for the Maple Leafs has everyone asking the same two questions. What the heck happened? And what the heck is the solution?
Years ago, we were all stunned when Islander GM Garth Snow handed goaltender Rick DiPietro an astounding 15 year contract back in 2005. Fast forward to present day, and this recent fad of handing out double digit term into a player’s forties is very quickly starting to get out of hand. Detroit GM Ken Holland gives out 12 and 11 year contracts to Zetterberg and Franzen respectively, Chicago joins the party with a 12 year contract for Hossa (which is now being investigated by the league), and Philly decides it would like to ink Pronger through age 42. Last but not least, news broke earlier today of a shiny new 12 year extension for 30 year old goaltender Roberto Luongo. Well enough is enough.
This article is cross-posted from my site: www.checkingfrombehind.com. I thought I’d share it with you to explain the circumstances on why the NHL feels it is not a “legal” contract.
Almost a month after the alleged “errors” in their qualifyings of RFA players, the Chicago Blackhawks are faced with another possible problem, only this time they won’t be losing players, they’ll be losing draft picks and up to a $5M fine by the NHL. It seems their contract for UFC Marian Hossa, a significantly front-loaded 12 year deal worth $62.8M, is not in compliance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). How is that you ask?
Official Deal: Kubina + Tim Stapleton for Garnet Exelby + Colin Stuart.
Turns out it’s Garnet Exelby + a few other parts coming back. Looks to be a salary cap clearance more than anything for something bigger… Burke’s expected to make a major push for Komisarek now as reported here earlier.
Exelby’s a tough customer and a Canadian boy. The theme continues….
The Leafs gain $2 million in cap space in the exchange.
Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke, per the Toronto Star:
“We intend to be pushing the cap every year. We want to spend the money intelligently. We’re Big Blue, we’re going to spend to the cap.”
Now, your initial reaction to that is probably one of surprise, given Burke’s previous statements about a potential cap decline. Â Â Does that mean his statement today runs counter to the theory of a rebuilding effort?Â Â Â Â Not at all.
This proposed offer to purchase the struggling Phoenix Coyotes by Jim Balsillie may be a better possibility this time around. It may seem impossible to fathom another NHL club so close to its flagship franchise, the Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres, but it’s not jurisdiction that’s at the heart of the issue here.
It’s the salary cap, revenue and a return to the dead puck era.
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