A hard salary cap like the NHL has in it’s expiring CBA helps level the playing field so that a small-market team like the Nashville Predators can compete with the bigger franchises. However, the bigger markets still have some options that a less financially strong team doesn’t.
Under the expiring system, they could attempt to lower their best players’ cap hits by signing them to long-term, heavily front-loaded contracts. In addition, they could bury expensive contracts in the minors to get under the cap.
For example, the New York Rangers have been sparing themselves of Wade Redden’s $6.5 million annual cap hit by having him play in the AHL while they signed Brad Richards to a deal that pays him $12 million in the first year of his contract and $1 million in each of the last three seasons.
“The league refers to it as ‘leakage’,” said an NHL agent, according to Adam Proteau of the Hockey News. “It’s the front-loading of deals, it’s burying contracts in the minors or Europe. Last time, (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) only cared about the bigger picture – getting the (salary) cap in place and getting rid of (former NHLPA executive director) Bob (Goodenow). This time, he’s interested in all the details and fine print.”
Which begs the question, as Proteau brought up, is complete parity something to strive for? Should teams with bigger fanbases have some sort of advantage?
Ideally, on-ice success leads to financial success, so a system that provides the smaller markets with a chance to succeed can be of benefit in that regard. In the MLB, for example, you could argue that it is significantly harder for a smaller market to consistently challenge a team like the New York Yankees.
However, Proteau argues that, “Considering where the NHL is right now – with the big-markets making life easier for the small markets as it is – it doesn’t need full and artificial equality. It needs a better system to help the small-markets – a system that includes help from the NHLPA – but it also needs to acknowledge which franchises have earned the most juice, too.”
So we’ll turn the question over to you. Do you want to see the existing rules tweaked to bring us closer towards parity or are you comfortable with a system that allows for rich teams to have some advantages over others?