Tag: money matters

Dan Hamhuis, Martin Erat

Money poorly spent? Martin Erat will miss game against Blues

The Nashville Predators’ $6 million forward Martin Erat will miss tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues with an “upper body injury,” according to Josh Cooper. Cooper and many others worry that the vaguely described problem is a recurrence of back issues that kept Erat out of 18 games last season.

Erat is in a tough spot going into 2011-12. The Predators are the NHL’s answer to the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s, which means that the team scrutinizes every dollar they spend. He tied Sergei Kostitsyn for the team lead with 50 points last season even with those back issues, but it’s natural for fans of the penny-pinching team to wonder if Erat is worth the money. (His cap hit is a more reasonable $4.5 million per year, but the Predators are a team that worries more about salary than cap space.)

With that substantial salary and the upcoming free agency of Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in mind, Predators fans will shine a harsh spotlight on Erat. His numbers weren’t great in the Predators’ 3-2 win Friday, as he was on the ice for both Columbus Blue Jackets goals.

To temper the criticism a bit, someone needs to score for Nashville and Erat is one of their most capable forwards. However they feel about his paychecks, the Predators will want him back as soon as possible.

The obvious reason why the NHL won’t switch to a larger ice surface

Flames Canucks Hockey

The 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp acted as a mad science lab to test rule changes both big and small, but it was also a sly way to generate buzz for hockey in August.

Naturally, the talk of altering the game encourages bloggers, fans and writers to chime in with their own suggestions. Some wonder if the sport should do away with fighting, making all head shots illegal or even remove body contact altogether. Others are a bit more realistic with their expectations.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Buffery is the latest writer to offer a reasonable change that probably won’t happen for a long, long time (if it ever happens): switching to a larger ice surface.

On the surface level, it’s a big picture cure for whatever worries the league might have about scoring. As Buffery explains, more ice means more room, which is a great weapon for speedy and skilled players. The first dissenting point Buffery brings up is that a larger ice surface would likely make for less hitting, a reasonable assumption since it would be that much tougher to lay a body on shiftier players.

It’s not until he gets a little deeper into his argument that he hits on the obvious sticking point, though: money.

Opponents of bigger ice will also argue that, logistically, it’s too costly to widen the ice, that it’s too late the make the change.

Sure, it would probably cost each club a few million and a few rows of seats. But it’s a smart investment. It’s like the federal government increasing spending on health and fitness. Yes, there are big up-front costs but, down the road, the investment is going save money on health costs.

If the NHL spends the millions now to widen the ice, it would pay off in a big way down the road, because, as the game becomes more exciting and goal-scoring increases, more fans would get turned on. And it would make sense that TV ratings would go up. And perhaps, one day, the NHL would even get more lucrative TV deals outside of Canada.

Sure, in an ideal world, all 30 NHL teams would be forward-thinking enough to swallow the bitter, multimillion dollar pill that would come with such a change. But how many teams would actually be comfortable with losing some of their most lucrative seats for a change that isn’t guaranteed to work? The Florida Panthers’ “Club Red” is strong proof that, if anything, the league’s teams are looking for more ways to squeeze every last dollar out of their “premium” seats. Even bigger clubs who could stomach those millions in losses are unlikely to want to give up some of their best money-making rows in the name of an enormous change.

Yes, it’s tantalizing to imagine how entertaining the NHL would be on international-size rinks, but don’t expect that to take place anywhere outside our imaginations.

Tackling how the US debt debacle might affect the NHL

A picture shows the reflection of a man

In case you haven’t been paying attention to news and politics lately (it’s OK, we understand that little-to-none of the news has been good), the United States’ credit rating went from AAA to AA-plus according to Standard & Poor’s. It’s been called “an unprecedented blow” to the American economy and could “eventually raise borrowing costs for the American government, companies and consumers.”

If you’re visiting this hockey blog to escape that nightmare story, we apologize. The sad reality is that real-world economics often invade the comfy bubble of low-stakes sporting events.

On the Forecheck’s Dirk Hoag did a fantastic job of explaining how this scary situation might affect the NHL in general today. After giving an overview of how the values of the Canadian dollar and the American dollar changed over the years – and how those fluctuations affected the NHL in that time – Hoag gave three hypotheses on how this latest crisis might affect the highest levels of hockey.

Let’s take a look at each of the the main points he made.

1. More Canadian teams spending closer to the cap

… A windfall gain due to currency shifts could make it easier for those teams to boost their player salaries for the upcoming season, and/or increase off-ice spending to gain edges elsewhere (Calgary recently hired Chris Snow to conduct video & statistical analysis, while Toronto has a front office loaded with ex-GM’s from around the league).

Could these shifts also mean more Canadian teams, period? It certainly gives an extra bit of credibility to hockey-starved Quebec, if they could ever get that pesky NHL arena built.

2. Small market American teams face an additional challenge

The NHL has a revenue sharing plan that can benefit the league’s smaller markets, but those markets must reach certain spending and revenue benchmarks to enjoy those benefits. Here’s how Hoag described that possible situation.

For a team which earned a full share in 2010-2011, missing that target next year would mean they’d only get 75% for 2011-2012, a hit which could easily amount to $3-5 million depending on individual circumstances. Teams missing those targets for the second consecutive year only get 60% of their share, and for 3-year (or more) offenders, they get 50%.

The third point is more about minutiae, unless you’re asking Dan Ellis.

3. Players may benefit from decreased escrow

Again, that’s a concern that probably doesn’t register with many fans, but read the post if you’re curious.


So, the basic takeaway is that Canadian teams could benefit across the board while small market (non-traditional?) American teams might be under even more stress if the downgrade has a significant impact on American currency. In a way, it almost seems like Canadian teams are getting revenge for the ’90s, when their teams were bleeding money and the Sunbelt expansion was in full swing.

Of course, while Hoag’s post is grounded in logic, it’s still speculation at this point. That being said, could the NHL actually consider putting together an American Assistance Plan in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement to echo the Canadian version from the latest one? There are all kinds of possibilities at play here … and most of them are rather depressing.

We could have more than a year to discuss these and many other issues as the CBA races toward expiration, although most of us will spend the majority of our time simply begging for both sides to avoid another lockout.