As National Hockey League owners and the NHLPA work towards creating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, some wonder if the two sides will find a middle ground before the league enters its third lockout in 18 years.
While this author would never claim to be a CBA expert and fully admits that countless others are more well versed on the matter, he would still like to provide some suggestions.
- In the most recent iterations of the NFL and NBA’s CBA, the two leagues adopted a 10-year model. The CBA for these two leagues will expire in 2021. The NHL would also benefit from such a lengthy agreement, as it would allow for more than enough time to work out kinks and and for difficult situations to play themselves out. Additionally, the owners and Player’s Association would also have enough time to work through ideas for the following CBA during this time frame.
- Rather than having a static salary-cap floor, the league should have a rolling cap floor, which would vary on a team-by-team basis, depending upon a team’s revenue, operating expenses, and trend of growth or decline in recent years.
- The maximum length of a player contract should be determined by age. Currently, the standard length of the average Entry-Level Contract varies between one-to-three years, based on the age of the rookie (there is no restriction for rookies 25-or-older). This model should be applied across the board. To keep the level of parity high, players in their mid-20s should be allowed to sign lengthy contracts so teams can reduce the cap hit and keep their own homegrown talent. Players over 35 should not be able to sign contracts over three years. There was no reason Chris Pronger should have received a seven-year extension. Additionally, Shane Doan’s free agent demands — which are likely inflated for teams outside of Phoenix — are a bit absurd.
- Assuming that Proposal #3 was accepted, players who sign 35-plus contracts should be allowed to retire without negatively impacting a team’s salary cap. If said player can sign a deal for no longer than three years, there would be little-to-no risk of cap circumvention, rendering the need for the 35-and-over rule somewhat moot.
- Teams should be allowed to include money in trades again. Certainly this is a complicated situation, as a big-market team might be able to out-muscle small-market teams by including obscene amounts of money that a low-revenue team might not be able to afford. Nevertheless, this positives for small-market teams would outweigh the negatives. These teams could acquire money for veterans soon-to-be free agents that may no longer fit into the team’s long-term plans and then use that money to be stronger competitors in the free-agent market or, you know, to stay afloat.
- Allow the NHLPA to have a fair say in the hiring and firing of the NHL Commissioner. The Commissioner is currently elected by the NHL Board of Governors, which is comprised primarily of team owners. The process needs to be more democratic. Gary Bettman, the current — and only — NHL Commissioner, is in a position where it is easy for him to do the owner’s bidding (whether he does or not is a different story) without providing equal consideration for the players or the fan base.
- Come up with a reasonable plan for league contraction or team relocation that would allow employees of affected teams to be adequately compensated for the loss of their job.
- Develop higher standards for referees and linesman. Additionally, invest more money in recruitment and training for on-ice officials.
- Create a modified “Third Man In” rule, which would allow for players to come to the defense of a teammate only in certain situations (i.e. when players can “police” themselves after a player from the opposing team lays a dirty/dangerous hit on a teammate).
- Make a “Three Strikes” rule, stating that if a player receives three suspensions that player would be banned from the league for a corresponding amount of time, depending upon length of suspensions and frequency (ie. Three 10-game-plus suspensions over the course of two seasons would result in a permanent ban from the NHL but three five-game suspensions over a five-year period might result in a one-year ban).
- Allow North American players to enter the AHL at a younger age. It is clear that some players have out grown leagues like those which comprise Canadian juniors, but are not physically mature enough to play in the NHL. By keeping them out of the NHL, the team risks letting a prospect’s growth stagnate. By allowing the player to remain in the NHL, the player runs the risk of suffering serious injuries at the hands of bigger, faster, and physically mature players. Rushing a player to the NHL also could cause setbacks in the player’s development.
Perhaps some of these ideas have already been proposed. Or, perhaps some have long-reaching implications that may not be clear at the moment. Either way, these seem like some reasonable and logical solutions to issues that currently plague the NHL.
What rule changes would you suggest?