NHLPA

NHL team executives dream up some interesting CBA changes

4 Comments

Craig Custance and Thomas Drance collected seven changes NHL team executives would like to make to the Collective Bargaining Agreement at The Athletic (sub. required). It’s an illuminating story that’s worth your time, even if you don’t find it funny. (Personally? I chuckled several times. There might have been a snort or two.)

At times, it felt a lot like someone grumbling that, sure their yacht has a movie theater in it, but not an IMAX screen.

In my opinion, the final three items on the list rank as the most reasonable. Players, not just team owners and GMs, would probably be fine with salary arbitration being tweaked. I’m not sure anyone’s blood pressure would go up if the league clarified LTIR rules, either. And while I’m not enthused about the idea of compensating teams with picks for most reasons, it’s also a smaller deal.

For more on those smaller details, check out that piece from Custance and Drance.

Going forward, the first four ideas are worth a deep dive.

Mistake insurance / NHL CBA changes would aim to limit player movement even more

If you walk through the stages an NHL player goes through, you might get an idea of how unfair the process can sometimes be. To start, they don’t get to choose which team drafts them. Thus, you get Connor McDavid making that face when the Oilers won the lottery in his draft year.

After being drafted by a team they didn’t choose, said player could face about a decade before they hit unrestricted free agency. By then, smart teams will realize that player is either approaching their decline, or already there.

But that’s what a lot of the grumbling is really about. We’ve seen plenty of changes in free agency over different CBAs, yet plenty of teams make the same basic mistakes. They overvalue veteran and midrange players, handing out cap-compromising contracts over and over again.

So it’s not surprising to see that many NHL team executives basically want insurance against their own bad habits. They essentially demand that all midnight snacks retroactively become vegetable trays.

For me, the most amusing/insulting idea would be not allowing players to receive no-trade/movement clauses until age 30.

Broadly, a team could control a player’s movement until they’re 27, and a player couldn’t protect against being traded on a whim until they’re 30+. That’s … kind of audacious, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong. When you’re negotiating, you often start by asking for the moon. Some of this stuff feels more suited for another planet or solar system, though.

With the next CBA, NHL team executives should be careful what they wish for

One of the most interesting ideas would be changing term limits. The NHL already got its wish to cap contract terms at eight years to re-sign your own player, and seven for free agents. Custance and Drance report that NHL executives would instead like to limit that to five years.

This, again, feels like a rule that would aim toward keeping GMs from making self-destructive moves.

Let’s face, it, though. We haven’t always needed even five years to figure out when an especially bad contract is rotten. The Maple Leafs probably regretted the David Clarkson contract by exhibition time. Milan Lucic‘s contract would be less existentially frightening if it ended after 2020-21 instead of 2022-23. But it would probably carry more than a $6M AAV to balance that out.

Teams also would lose out on potential long-term bargains. Nathan MacKinnon would be entering a contract year next season (and again, would probably cost more per year).

Yes, things can get funky with signing bonuses and uneven year-to-year salaries, two things NHL team executives would like to see changed with CBA tweaks. But would that be as beneficial as teams think? It would certainly take some creativity out of the hands of agents, so maybe that’s enough of a “win.”

Pondering the players’ side, and other CBA thoughts

Look, it’s a bummer that a lower-budget team in a bad-weather market faces disadvantages. At some point, though, you need to recognize that there’s only so much you can do about reality.

Here’s the other thing: chaos and mistakes can be good. To be specific, big names hitting free agency creates buzz. Bad offseasons are bad for the league.

If anything, the NHL is guilty of making it too easy for teams to keep most of their best players. While the NBA and NFL create headlines almost all year long, there are some dreary off-seasons for hockey fans.

Let’s also realize the players will want CBA concessions, too. Back on May 1, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun hypothesized (sub. required) one main push for players:

From a players’ perspective, I have to think finding a way to limit escrow long term, finding a way to collect a closer percentage of their actual negotiated salaries has to be, as always, of utmost importance. But perhaps more than ever on that front with revenues taking a hit.

Overall, there’s nothing wrong with NHL teams or players asking for more in CBA talks, as long as such ideas embrace reality. After all, the current CBA has to be pretty good for such a lockout-hungry group of owners to mainly aim for tweaks rather than drastic changes, right?

With the league (and world) still needing time to assess the full impact of COVID-19, the NHL and NHLPA face big questions in both the short and long-term. It’s promising that the two sides are trying to figure out an extension before the current CBA’s September 2022 deadline, but it’s also clear that they all have more work to do. Maybe a lot of it.

MORE: Decision coming soon on early-June NHL draft; could be a ‘toss-up’

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Dustin Byfuglien, Jets reach agreement to terminate contract

1 Comment

Dustin Byfuglien is officially an unrestricted free agent after the Jets and NHLPA came to an agreement following the November grievance he filed.

The NHL and NHLPA announced on Friday that the Jets defenseman’s contract has been terminated seven months after he took a leave of absence to mull his future. The team suspended Byfuglien, but he filed a grievance arguing he was recovering from a hockey injury and therefore should be paid. He underwent surgery in October for a high ankle sprain.

“Obviously this was never our desired outcome with Dustin,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said on a Friday conference call.

Byfuglien’s contract, which carried a $7.6 million cap hit, was set to expire in 2021, but his suspension meant the Jets had the ability to toll it to 2021-22.

How badly did Byfuglien want to be free? Cheveldayoff confirmed that the settlement saw zero dollars go the defenseman’s way. That’s him saying bye-bye to $14 million over the next two seasons.

Byfuglien was an interesting name to surface around the NHL Trade Deadline. Cheveldayoff could have included him in a deal, but those plans fell apart when he learned the defenseman did not plan to play this season.

“Interestingly enough, Dustin essentially made the decision not to play this year,” Cheveldayoff said a few days after the deadline. “And that essentially kind of squashed anything that might happen for someone to maybe put him in their lineup this year. We can still trade him at any point in time, with respect to the future as well.”

The question now becomes, once the NHL resumes, what the future holds for the 35-year-old Byfuglien, who had been with the franchise since its final season in Atlanta in 2010-11. Does he want to play again? He could continue rehabbing and pursue a contract whenever the 2020 free agent market opens. But how hesitant will teams be in pursuing a defenseman coming off ankle surgery who hasn’t played since April 20, 2019?

There’s always a team willing to take a chance, right?

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Crosby, McDavid, Gritty top 2019-20 NHLPA Player Poll

Getty Images

The NHLPA delayed releasing the results of its 2019-20 player poll due to the league pause, but the answers finally arrived on Tuesday.

If you’ve ever wanted to know who makes up the NHL’s best bromance or who has the best fashion sense, as well as answers to the usual “best forward,” “most complete player,” and “worst trash talker” questions, today is your day.

First, the usual stuff. Nearly 600 players were polled before the league’s pause and they voted Connor McDavid (68.35%) the overwhelming “Best Forward.” Sidney Crosby (14.93%) was a distant second. Victor Hedman (37.88%) topped John Carlson (21.35%) as “Best Defenseman,” while Carey Price (41.55%) was tabbed “Best Goalie” over Andrei Vasilevskiy (17.09%).

Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin (39.92%) was voted “Best Female Hockey Player in the World” over Hilary Knight (36.29%) and Kendall Coyne Schofield (15.52%) of the U.S.

Crosby (44.03%) did earn the “If you need to win one game, who is the one player (any position) you would want on your team?” award over McDavid (30.53%) and was also voted “Most Complete Player” with 45.56% of the vote over Patrice Bergeron (25.44%).

There were plenty of fun topics the players voted on, and Brad Marchand should be proud. For the second straight year the Bruins forward was voted the best and worst trash-talker in the NHL. He beat out Drew Doughty and Patrick Maroon for “Best,” while topping Doughty again, as well as P.K. Subban and Nick Cousins for “Worst.”

Who has the “best bromance” in the league? Well, that was a tough one. David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly narrowly edged out the combos of Joe Thornton/Brent Burns, Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner, Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin, and Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand. Some players had a funny sense of humor giving Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty 3.67% of the vote.

The players also showed their desire to allow more personality in the game. Over 40% said they’d like to see custom skate designs and 73% are in favor of relaxing the NHL’s game-day dress code.

In a surprise to no one Gritty took 69.72% of the vote in the “Best Mascot” category. His closest competitors were Gnash (Predators), Howler (Coyotes), Bailey (Kings), and Youppi! (Canadiens), who received just under 3%.

You can check out the rest of the awards at the NHLPA website.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL decides to ‘pause’ regular season due to coronavirus

5 Comments

The NHL decided to “pause” the 2019-20 regular season as the coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak continues.

NHL, NHLPA release statements explaining that the 2019-20 season will be put on pause

Here is the official statement from Gary Bettman:

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games.

“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.

“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

The NHLPA backed that up, calling this “an appropriate course of action at this time.”

Things moved quickly after the NBA instituted a similar pause on Wednesday

The league made this announcement on Thursday after the NBA decided to suspend its own season on Wednesday. Initially, it looked like teams would play in arenas without fans (starting with the Blue Jackets and Sharks). Instead, they’re hitting the pause button.

At this time, it’s unclear when the NHL season may resume. It’s possible that the NHL would jump right to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after things are no longer on hold, and there’s also a scenario where the Stanley Cup isn’t awarded at all for the 2019-20 season. Would play resume, but still not for fans?

Plenty of questions swirl around the season being suspended. Could this process disrupt the 2020 NHL Draft and/or combine and other activities? Pierre LeBrun speculated on TSN that a draft could theoretically be held via telephone.

Long story short, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. One thing we know for sure, though, is that the NHL did indeed put its 2019-20 season on hold in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus pandemic gives NHL little choice but to put season on hold

As you can see from NBC News’ live updates, the World Health Organization called the coronavirus a pandemic for the first time on Wednesday. At least 1,000 people have been infected in the U.S., with the latest count being that 33 people died in the U.S. Recent U.S. measures include a 30-day travel ban for much of Europe.

As painful as it might be for so many events to go on hold, the NHL and other bodies are likely making the right call. In a piece for The Atlantic, Yasha Mounk explained that social distancing is “the only way to stop the coronavirus.”

Before China canceled all public gatherings, asked most citizens to self-quarantine, and sealed off the most heavily affected region, the virus was spreading in exponential fashion. Once the government imposed social distancing, the number of new cases leveled off; now, at least according to official statistics, every day brings more news of existing patients who are healed than of patients who are newly infected.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli provided a preliminary (but in-depth) look at how this all might affect the NHL’s bottom line, from short and long-term salary cap implications to questions about insurance. There’s no denying that this is an uncomfortable disruption for the NHL and its fans, but it’s likely the best choice in the interest of public health.

Of course, PHT will provide more updates and analysis as this situation evolves.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL evaluating options due to Coronavirus

The NHL will continue to evaluate its options and released the following statement Wednesday evening.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the NBA’s decision tonight to indefinitely suspend its season due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus. The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow (Thursday).”

The NBA suspended its season Wednesday evening and stated, “will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert has tested positive for the coronavirus. Players on the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder have been quarantined in the OKC arena according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As you can see from NBC News’ live updates, the World Health Organization called the coronavirus a pandemic for the first time on Wednesday. This comes after more than 1,000 people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus, a number that could climb considerably once testing ramps up.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.