1) The Blues are not run by idiots who were willing to fling around 10-14 year deals like it was candy.
2) The new CBA takes away any chance that some team will do that to steal Alex Pietrangelo away from the Blues.
That being said, this is a Jeff Gordon column, so do with that what you will.
http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/ ... fb93a.html
The St. Louis Blues lost plenty during the National Hockey League lockout.
Their breakout 2011-12 season energized their fans and built anticipation for this season. Tom Stillman’s new ownership group was poised to parlay that success into desperately needed revenue growth.
Coach Ken Hitchcock positioned them for Stanley Cup contention. The franchise was prepared to sell out game after game without resorting to heavy ticket discounting or elaborate gimmicks.
The team had tremendous momentum on and off the ice . . . and then the league shut down for 40 percent of the season while demanding wholesale labor concessions from the players.
The Blues lost millions of dollars in near-term revenue and millions more for the long haul. Some fans didn’t come back after the previous two stoppages and some won’t return this time.
And what do the Blues gain from this severe lockout sacrifice?
Not much, really, since the NHL’s flawed economic model remains unchanged under the new collective bargaining agreement.
The league’s network and cable television revenue remains tiny compared to the NFL, NBA and MLB. Revenue sharing among NHL teams remains insufficient.
The gulf between “have” and “have not” franchises remains enormous.
In such an environment, using a salary cap/floor system to regulate player compensation doesn’t solve the fundamental problem. Reducing the players’ revenue share from 57 percent to 50 percent doesn’t shift the paradigm.
This system still allows the rich teams to get richer while at least half the teams still struggle to survive.
The new deal lowers the salary floor to $44 million in 2013-14, down from $48.3 million last season. That offers only minor relief to money-losing teams like the Blues.
The NHL Players Association believes the league could create a much healthier industry through more extensive revenue sharing among teams. The rich and powerful franchises rejected that concept. They want to keep their giant slices of pie while the Phoenix Coyotes eat scraps.
Instead, the NHL sought to “idiot proof” franchise management with new player contract restrictions. Commissioner Gary Bettman sought these safeguards because teams like the Flyers and Wild made astonishing mistakes during the past few years of the old agreement.
Pay $51 million over nine years for skittish goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov? Sure, go ahead. What could possibly go wrong for Bryzgalov in the highly charged Philadelphia atmosphere?
Offer $98 million over 13 years to steal Nashville’s second-best defenseman, Ryan Suter? Why not! Give Zach Parise the same terms to leave New Jersey, too. Everybody knows that 13-year contracts are the way to go in midsized markets like Minnesota.
Each big signing seemed more ludicrous than the one before it. Even as the lockout day neared, NHL executives rushed to overpay as many players as possible before the league shut down.
Once the lockout started, these same executives flipped and started pleading poverty. Please forgive the players for remaining uniformly skeptical as the months rolled on and the lockout dragged out into the New Year.
The new agreement will make it somewhat more difficult for owners and general managers to mismanage their operation until they figure out the loopholes. They always find some loopholes.
(Some players are lamenting all the give-backs in this agreement, but the old-timers realize some owners will always find ways to overpay. In a few years, we’ll all wonder what the owners really gained during this latest lockout. It happens every time.)
The Blues didn’t need an “idiot proof” agreement because idiots don’t run this franchise. General manager Doug Armstrong knows what he is doing.
He spends wisely on talent. He challenges players to earn their raises and additional contract security. He can say “no” to a player agent. He does not sit up and bark on command, like so many of his peers.
The new agreement will limit players to eight-year contracts to remain with their team and seven-year deals to switch teams. Armstrong already knew that epic contract lengths are a bad idea in such a physically and emotionally demanding sport.
But this new limitation prevents some knucklehead from offering Alex Pietrangelo the sort of insane money (14 years, $110 million) Philadelphia offered restricted free agent Shea Weber to leave Nashville. So this is a good thing.
The agreement limits salary variance in the deals, preventing teams from lowering the average annual salary (and corresponding salary cap hit) by tacking small salaries at the far end of contracts. Armstrong never played this game, so he didn’t need this protection.
The new agreement will set the salary cap for 2013-14 at $64.3 million, the same as it was last season. That is a non-issue for the Blues. St. Louis can’t support such a payroll. Armstrong’s budget for this season will come in about $10 million under that.
This agreement gives each team amnesty buyouts to dump contracts and get under the lowered salary cap. Armstrong does not give out stupid contracts, so he doesn’t need this tool.
The length of this accord – 10 years, with an opt-out after eight years – is positive for every NHL team. Perhaps Bettman will retire before then and the sport will have real leadership in place. Maybe, just maybe, the NHL’s cycle of self-destruction will end.
Stillman, Armstrong and Co. will appreciate some of the minor protections gained in the new deal. But given the extreme price paid for those provisions, this settlement can’t feel like a spectacular victory down at Scottrade Center.