Not every money-losing owner is a Leipold

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Let’s start off with a little math:

If each team in the NHL had spent just enough to reach the salary cap floor in 2011-12, 57 percent of hockey-related revenue would’ve gone to the players.

Last year, 57 percent of hockey-related revenue was $1.87 billion.

On the other hand, if each team in the NHL had spent to the salary cap ceiling in 2011-12, 57 percent of hockey-related revenue would’ve gone to the players.

Last year, 57 percent of hockey-related revenue was $1.87 billion.

Sometimes it seems like not everyone understands this. Or, they’re choosing not to publicly.

“We’re agreeing to pay our players a certain percentage of our revenues. That’s a fixed dollar amount,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told FAN 590 earlier in the week.

Again, “That’s a fixed dollar amount.”

In the new, yet-to-be-negotiated CBA, the NHL wants a reduction in the percentage of revenues going to the players because the league thinks 57 percent is too high. Such a reduction would result in the loss of salary for players via escrow, which is used to reconcile any “shortfall” or “overage” to the players as it relates to the revenue split.

Losing money to escrow would not be a new thing for the players. Five times since the 2005 CBA was introduced the players haven’t received as much as their contracts said they were supposed to receive.

Of course, twice they received more than their contracts said they were supposed to receive. You just don’t hear them talk about that very much.

Not once have the players received the exact amount their contracts said they were supposed to receive, because another contract – the CBA – overrides all.

So to those arguing it’s the damn owners that are paying the players too much, the owners, as a group, don’t have a choice. Last year, the players were going to get $1.87 billion, regardless of what total player salaries added up to on paper.

As individual teams, however, the owners have a choice. Take the case of the Minnesota Wild, which now boasts one of the league’s highest payrolls thanks to the massive contracts the club awarded Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

That, for lack of a better term, may have been dumb. Minnesota is a mid-level market; it’s not Toronto or New York.

“Some clubs may spend poorly,” admits Daly.

But Wild owner Craig Leipold believed it was the kind of investment that needed to be made in order to reconnect with fans, get the team back into the playoffs and kick-start future revenue growth. And the only way he was going to get those players was to give them the kind of front-loaded deals the NHL wants to do away with.

Absolutely Leipold was hoping to claw back some of that salary in a new CBA. Was it distasteful? Perhaps. But Parise and Suter knew the score. So the players can spare us with the babe-in-the-woods routine (h/t FBI agent in Goodfellas).

From a public-relations standpoint, what Leipold did looked awful, and you can bet Gary Bettman wasn’t pleased. Most everyone would agree that owners who take massive financial gambles should have to feel serious financial hurt if they don’t work out. That’s business. And no owner should be guaranteed a profit every season.

But it’s unfair to throw Leipold in with all the other small- to mid-market owners that adhere to their self-imposed budgets. It’s those owners that need help, be it through more revenue sharing or reduced player expense. Chances are it will be through both. To which degree of each is the question.

Ultimately a new CBA won’t guarantee every team a profit, and nor should it. If an owner spends his money poorly, then that owner should lose money.

But as it stands, there are owners that could spend their money well and still lose money, and that’s not a sustainable model.

Fortunately, a deal is possible — this isn’t a broken industry.

Which is what makes all this so frustrating. We can see the deal through all the rhetoric and posturing and pandering to fans.

It just needs to happen.

WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.

Predators marvel at Fiala’s ‘beautiful’ work in preseason win

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Confession: It was difficult to shake the memory of Kevin Fiala‘s frightening injury from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you need a reminder of the scary moment that ended what seemed like a breakthrough run, the video can be seen above this headline.

Another confession: personally, there’s been some concern about how well Fiala can bounce back, at least early on. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the young forward is his blazing speed; what if that’s been taken away from him?

Now, scoring two goals in the Nashville Predators’ 5-3 preseason win against the Columbus Blue Jackets doesn’t mean Fiala will avoid missing a beat in 2017-18.

Forgive Predators fans for getting excited, anyway, especially with goals like these.

Wow.

Filip Forsberg got borderline-romantic about what Fiala did on Sunday, and again, can you really blame him?

Again, the true tests for both Fiala and the Predators begin in October. Still, it’s better to look impressive at this time of the year instead of to go in slow (or injured, as the unlucky St. Louis Blues seem to be doing).

Gaudreau, other NHL players approve of crackdown on slashing

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When slash after slash broke one of Johnny Gaudreau‘s fingers, he called it part of the game.

The Calgary Flames winger known as “Johnny Hockey” is one of the NHL’s most marketable players, so broken bones should be a problem.

Slashing has become such a regular element in NHL games that it necessitated 791 minor penalties last season with countless more going uncalled. Gaudreau’s broken finger and Marc Methot‘s lacerated pinkie brought enough attention to the issue that the league is taking a stronger stand on flagrant slashing this year to cut down on injuries and obstruction.

“I think it’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: You don’t really know how bad a slash is,” said Gaudreau, who sat out two and a half weeks after surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. “But if they can harp down or look at it a little more closely, I think it might cause a little less injuries. Guys won’t be missing substantial time. I think it’d be huge.”

It was impossible to ignore slashing when Sidney Crosby sliced Methot’s finger open during a game in March, forcing the defenseman to miss three weeks. No penalty was called, and Crosby didn’t receive any supplemental discipline.

After members of the league’s competition committee recommended a closer look at slashing, officials have been instructed that it’s OK to call it more this season. NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said the rise in slashing over the past decade came about after the stricter enforcement of hooking and holding following the 2004-05 lockout with players finding new tactics to slow the game down.

“Players started slashing in between the hands and on the hands, and the whacking became hacking became something that became the norm in the game,” Walkom said. “It’s time to have a stronger enforcement to let the players know what they can and can’t do. If you’re going to be whacking a player’s hands six, eight feet from the puck, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be penalized if it’s seen by the officials on the ice.”

So many slashing penalties were called in the first few preseason games that it was somewhat comical. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere understands slashing but said he doesn’t know if it should be a penalty when no one knows why the whistle was blown.

Walkom sent a note reminding referees that the intent was to focus on slashes around the hands, not every time a player’s stick hits an opponent in the heavily-padded pants. Slashing at players’ hands will not only be an area of emphasis on the ice but also from the league office where new vice president of player safety George Parros is watching closely.

The former enforcer said slashes delivered with greater force or directed at players’ fingers will be met with fines and/or suspensions.

“We’re going to try and change player behavior,” Parros said. “We’re certainly trying to get rid of a pattern of a certain type of slash. If that’s like a harder slash on the fingertips as opposed to maybe in the elbow pad or something, that might be something we look at. And if it’s a pattern of a certain type of location slash or if it’s a pattern of a player, we’re going to look to eliminate both of those.”

Reducing unnecessary injuries is just one piece of this tighter enforcement. As with the crackdown on the hooking, holding and interference that mucked games up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fewer slashes should open the ice up for offensive players at even-strength and potentially lead to more power plays.

“In some ways it’s going to put even bigger premium on getting body position and not being stuck in a position where you have to reach for a guy,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “Usually that’s a positive sign for getting more opportunities to produce.”

St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo said he already noticed players slashing less often a few games into the preseason. That’s one of the intended consequences of calling certain types of slashes more.

“The players are the smartest people in the game relative to the game and they will adjust because nobody wants to sit in the penalty box,” Walkom said. “A lot of it’s reflex and habit, but the players will break old habits with a consistent enforcement.”

Old habits die hard, but it’s easier than healing broken bones.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.