Sunday, August 1, 2010

How The Money Has Changed

We have played 5 full seasons of NHL hockey since the big bad lockout of 2004-2005 and I still feel that the product that is the National Hockey League is better for the missed year of hockey then it was prior to the lockout. Obviously there was some immediate changes that affect the game right out of the gate such as the shoot out, the elimination of "clutch & grab", and the resulting special teams league that resulted from the fact more power plays are being handed out. One of the slower evolving changes however, has been the affect that the cap itself has had on the NHL.

In the immediate years following the lockout the free agency period played out as it always has. Top end players got contracts they can never live up to, the teams that missed out on the top tier players, gobbled up the tier two players, and as the summer played out the older UFA's and players that came with baggage, or those considered gambles, would be signed by teams that had no choice but to take a chance. 5 years later the impact many thought the cap would have, is finally upon us and I think it's a wonderful thing.

The first indication of what I'm talking about is crystal clear in the story of this years big fish in the free agent pool, Ilya Kovalchuk. It took almost 3 weeks for the best player available to sign a contract and even when he did finally find a deal he liked, it was so twisted in red tap the NHL rejected it. From what we are being told, the race for his services was really only a two horse race, when was the last time that was the case for the best talent in a NHL free agent period? Kovalchuk didn't get his choice of teams and didn't get to write his own ticket. The cap system has the money drying up, finally.

My next point is simply the fact that a pile of decent hockey players are still looking for work and training camps open in 1 month. That 2nd tier players I mentioned earlier isn't getting signed, not for the money they thought they would collect anyway. As things stand right now some very interesting names are still sitting on the sidelines hoping for the phone to ring. To name a few, Teemu Selanne, Bill Guerin, Marty Turco, Paul Kariya, Mike Comrie, Maxim Afinogenov, and Miroslav Satan. These guys aren't 4th line drones, I'd bet many of the mentioned can still do 40, maybe 50 point seasons. The thing is NHL teams have realized that giving a 20 year old kid a chance at 800,000 bucks might be the better path then paying a 40 year old Teemu Selanne 2 million or more. The money isn't there like it once was.

It's not a bad thing people, it's what we wanted as fans. A system where if a GM screws up and spends money to freely, and in the wrong places, they handcuff themselves and their hockey teams. A system where teams can't spend more money to get themselves out of messes they themselves created. It took longer then most would have guessed, but I believe the cap effect is now in full force. Can you imagine the pressure some teams will be under if the cap ever falls?

If it falls? Sorry, when it falls.

Either way, it should be fun to watch.

Then again, this is just another damned opinion.