Thoughts during the dog days

Happy Friday, BSB crew. It is officially the dog days of summer. The Draft and free agency have come and gone, and surprisingly, we haven’t seen much movement out of our (beloved?) Rangers since the end of June.  We have seen a few contract updates and the major RFA’s are still yet to sign, but as we inch closer to the return of hockey, I have some scattered thoughts while there isn’t much happening in Rangerstown…

1. I’ll be honest that I never expected to see this little activity on the trade market thus far. Sure, we had the Dougie Hamilton heist and a few minor trades here and there, but still nothing on the Erik Karlsson front.  None of the Rangers RFA’s have been moved.  It’s…odd.  I suppose the Rangers never had to deal any of their RFA’s; they do need to ice a team, after all.  They can look and see what the landscape looks like at the deadline and assess from there.  I think all the re-build stuff got us a little worked up into a frenzy over all the changes that haven’t really materialized yet.

2. Instead, the Rangers have just more or less gone about their business, signing reasonable and rational deals with their RFA’s.  I don’t love qualifying Rob O’Gara, since he is pretty terrible, but I suppose you can stash him in Hartford for depth purposes.  The Namestnikov and Vesey contracts were both fine.  That’s been more or less the offseason so far: fine.

3. Is that Marc-Andre Fleury extension brutal or what? Woof.  I get that the guy has been the face of the franchise thus far, but he is coming up on his 34th birthday and has a concussion history. So, let’s definitely make sure we pay him $7m per year until he is 37.

4. The John Tavares contract with Toronto got me thinking about a fundamental problem with player compensation in the NHL.  Is there really a way for a player to make market value in their best years without becoming a cap clogging albatross?  I believe the answer is a resounding “NO”.  Regardless of how you feel about player compensation, the salary cap, etc., I think this reality is fundamentally bad for the game. Organizations should not want their best players to be vilified by virtue of their compensation and/or cap hit (even if the org is resentful of how much it cost to keep him), because universal adoration of franchise players breeds truckloads of merchandising dollars. Think about how much money the Yankees have made off of Derek Jeter merchandise over the years? He obviously made a ton of money, but there were never a bunch of talking radio heads yelling about how much cap space Jeter was eating up.

5. Player compensations models are more or less the same in every sport.  Small market teams who can’t afford mega contracts need years of team control to have competitive windows and players are paid like indentured servants (relatively speaking, of course) during this time.  It is not until the player achieved sufficient tenure in the league before he is able to be compensated accordingly.  The problem is there are usually only a few (if that) years left in the player’s career that warrant the new-found compensation.  This inevitably leads to the player being marked an underperforming asset for making the money they deserved years earlier. It’s a broken system.  The salary cap only makes this worse.

6. As I was thinking about this, it evolved (or devolved?) into realizing that pretty much every institutional structure the NHL has in place sucks.  Really think about it for a minute.  Salary cap calculation model: sucks.  Divisional alignment: sucks.  Playoff format: sucks. Free agency rights: complicated and sucks. Draft lottery weighting format: sucks. National Broadcasts, both scheduling and product quality: sucks. League’s position on Olympic participation: sucks. The sick thing is I could go on and on and on.  My point here is that the NHL is a horribly run league and that sucks for all of us. Before you ask, the answer is yes, I can come up with better alternatives to everything the league currently does.

7. Anyway, back to the Rangers. I agree with Dave on Brady Skjei’s long-term value.  I think the risk is too low to pass on locking up a stabilizing presence on what will ultimately be a very young blueline when all the higher-ceiling prospects arrive.  The team will need someone to eat minutes and play a consistent transition game.  Especially at a price in the mid-$4m’s without any years with a “3” in front of them.  I’m on board.

8. With the whispers of Jim Dolan potentially looking to sell the team (although he has denied this is the case), it does raise the question about the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.  I haven’t quite processed how I feel about the possibility of a sale, but I am curious to see what you all think.

That’s it for me this week. Hopefully things get a bit more interesting as we inch closer to the season, but as always, keep it locked to BSB for all the analysis and discussion as we look toward opening night.

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  • Salary cap: collectively bargained
    Free agency: collectively bargained, better than what was prior.
    Draft lottery: collectively bargained

    National broadcasts, divisional alignment, playoff format: he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    P.S. Whenever I’m on mobile, I keep on getting pop-up ads from Hell on this site.

    • Unlike Justin, I have no better solution, but collective bargaining is problem, because the cards are so obviously stacked against the NHLPA.

      They have no power. These players, especially young ones, need the money, which they don’t get during a lockout. The owners (million/billionaires), can’t wait a year or two for the right deal for them long term. Players want to play, players want to get paid, and unfortunately, have gotten hosed in bargaining in the process over the last 2 lockouts.

      As I said, there’s really no better alternative, other than players saying F you to the owners and be willing to hold out longer than Bettman and Co, but I doubt that ever happens, and it stinks.

  • 3. The MAC extension was absolutely ridiculous. He’s still under contract for one more year- so there was no rush to extend him this summer. He just put up a career year- so your paying the highest price tag possible. The contract starts when he is 35 years old- so when it becomes an albatross, the team has minimal cap flexibility. I couldn’t think of a more perfect storm of bad negotiating scenarios.

    6. I never thought about all league facets that deeply but I don’t necessarily disagree. Fully agree on player rights / salaries. It’s backwards and untenable- which is why we end up locking out every half decade, so the owners and general managers can save themselves from themselves. Might be too simple of a solution but how about something like:
    – Increase ELCs from 3 – 5 years (good for organizations)
    – Player goes directly to UFA status after ELC expires (good for players)
    -Max contract term decreases from 8 years to 5 years
    Obviously that’s not the whole solution, but it’s a start. Players get big dollars earlier. Teams get 2 more years of “free labor” and evaluation window to see who they want to pay coming out of their ELCs. Teams don’t get stuck paying players for decline years as much, given max contract term decreases to 5 years.

    7. Brady Skjei…. “Especially at a price in the mid-$4m’s without any years with a “3” in front of them. I’m on board.” Me too….

    • Good points on salary. In sports (except for the Patriots), players get rewarded for what they have done in the past instead of what they can still produce in the future.

    • 5 years for ELCs is a horrible idea. You need a buffer somewhere between the ELC and UFA status. I do agree however that max contracts should be driven down to 5-6 years and they need to adjust the rules on NTCs and NMCs. I also think buyouts should be easier, a more forgiving cap structure for teams would help. IMO

      • What About Franchising A player ???Where That Cap Hit Is not Fully Absorbed by The Team,Or The Cap Hit Gets Dispersed More Evenly Through the The Life Of The Contract.

    • I would like max contract term down to 4, and absolutely no NTC nor NMC in any contract. These players cannot handcuff a team opportunities. This hurts us the fans.

      • The only thing handicapping teams is incompetent management & ownership.

        Nobody is holding a gun to their head to offer these contracts.

  • If I’m the NHLPA, I’m doing 2 things right now going into a potential lockout:

    1: Set up a stalking horse company, blocking out dates in big European cites that have fractured hockey markets, but suitable arenas. AEG runs a lot of them, so you have to tread lightly.

    Dublin, London, Hamburg, Hanover(?), Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tallinn, Warsaw, Milan(?),Parma(?), Birmingham, Kiev, Budapest(?), Belgrade(?)

    2: Hire Mike McCall(or if the Flames can him after this season, Brad Treliving) to organize a league made of the above cities.

    They wouldn’t be stepping on too many toes and the ones they would step on would love the exposure OF top level hockey in their market. Not a barnstorming tour, but building new markets.

    The other Euro leagues could soak up a big chunk of players, but setting up a new euro loop could not only absorb the rest, but could create a new revenue stream for the PA. New TV inventory that isn’t soccer is something that programmers are looking for. Primarily run opposite FIFA national windows and after 7pm on weekends.

  • Agree with your points in #6 but the NHL has always been a Mickey Mouse organization (great sport, lousy league). The only quibble I have is that I couldn’t give a hair on the ass of a midget flea about Olympic participation. The Olympics are a sewer of corruption, hypocrisy and corporatism that should be ended. I don’t watch them or care about them. I’d rather have the guys on the team I root for playing for that team and not getting hurt or overextended on an international tournament that has no bearing on winning the Stanley Cup.

    • That being said, the Olympics are a great way to promote the sport worldwide. Not going to Korea is why the NHL is a Mickey Mouse league. The NHL could have games in Vegas start 2x a month at 9pm and drop that into a great viewing hour in Asia, while having the random weekend afternoon slot that goes primetime into Europe that can go from London into Moscow after soccer.

      But the NHL is so parochial that they can’t even grok the concept.

      • I don’t care about promoting the sport worldwide. Why would I? The NHL was a Mickey Mouse league long before they didn’t go to the Korea Olympics. You can go all the way back to the pre-draft era when teams had regional “rights” to amateur players and of course the Canadiens had the biggest and most lucrative “region”. You had cross-ownership of teams (and yes, that affected the Rangers). You had these useless, country-club type lackeys of ownership like Ziegler as commissioners.

        • “I don’t care about promoting the sport worldwide. Why would I?”

          Ever hear of Aito Iguchi ? I’d wager you could unearth a few more if the NHL did the smart thing and participate in Korea.

          You’ll probably scoff at that, so here’s one a little closer to home. If the NHL doesn’t put hockey in Phoenix, Auston Mathews would be wearing cleats instead of skates.

          That’s why you should care about promoting the sport.

          • Why would care if Matthews played baseball instead of hockey? I’m also a baseball fan so if he were in MLB I would be just as happy and I wouldn’t really know or care that he also had hockey talent. Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky were also good at baseball. Am I supposed to be disappointed that they chose to play hockey?

            Promoting the sport is not my business. Its something the owners and marketing pukes do to make money. Its not some kind of humanitarian gesture. I enjoyed hockey just as much decades ago when virtually all of the players came from Canada. I’m not saying its a bad thing that European and US players are now more prominent but that I’m indifferent to it.

            It also seems to me that hockey became quite prominent in many countries other than Canada in a period when NHL players did not participate in the Olympics so I don’t really buy that the NHL participating in the Olympics is necessary to promote the sport.

          • Ignore promoting the sport. It is DAMN good hockey. If you’re a hockey fan, you should want to be able to watch the best players in the world go head to head, in a tournament that means the world to them.

            Don’t overthink it, the 2010 USA/Canada game was one of the greatest games the sports ever seen. That won’t happen again, ever, without NHL players

          • It was damn good hockey back in the day too. And nothing will ever top the 1972 Summit Series which would be much less exciting today because most of the guys would be NHL players and some would be teammates.

            I could not care less about Olympic hockey games that will not be played. I guess while you were watching that 2010 US/Canada game you didn’t bother to spare a thought about all of the taxpayer ripoffs and poor people displaced and crapped on by building Olympic sites and running the games themselves.

            Don’t tell me what to think or not overthink. You’re not qualified.

          • I guess we could go further down this road and end up with “why would I care if hockey didn’t exist, I’d just watch baseball.”

          • Guess roadrider gets pretty butthurt over a comment on a blog.

            Hopefully he didn’t watch a single second of the World Cup since he’s the king of morality and sports, wouldn’t want him supporting an organization like FIFA!

          • @Matt: Its actually you who are getting “butthurt” over comments on a blog. And no, I didn’t watch a minute of the World Cup (no interest in the sport) but yes, from what I’ve read FIFA is a truly corrupt organization.

            Where do you get that I’m claiming to be “the king of morality and sports”? All I said was that I’m repulsed by the corruption and hypocrisy of the Olympics, which are well documented, and that I don’t care if the NHL doesn’t participate. As far as I know I’m allowed to express my opinion, but I guess there’s always a chance that some ignorant asshole will be offended.

          • @Matt – you’re the one who seems to be “butthurt” (whatever that means) about my comments.

            And no, I did not watch the World Cup (no interest in soccer) but from what I’ve read FIFA is just as corrupt as the IOC. And FYI I don’t claim to be the “king of morality and sport”. Its eminently fair to point out the issues with the IOC that have been well documented and to point out that even the most exciting hockey game cannot make up for billions spent of white elephant one-use Olympic venues or the way the lower strata of society that has the misfortune to live in the path of an Olympic site suffers so that sports fans can be gratified. Yes, some of the same issues go on with professional sports venues so I’ll admit to a bit of hypocrisy there. But I draw the line at the Olympics.

  • If a lockout does loom I’d hope perhaps that some individuals with the funds and foresight would attempt to start a new league. If it was viable it might 1) force the NHL to revamp itself from Mickey Mouse to power house; or, 2) replace the smoldering carcass of the NHL with a league that can actually administer and promote a great game properly.

    It wouldn’t be ideal for the NHL to crash and burn, but the powers that be deserve it. I am tired of them trying their best to ruin the sport.

    • Hockey is a great game and more specifically the NHL is by far the best hockey in the world.

      In spite of the horrible way that they run their business, Bettman specifically, the NHL continues to prosper. Bettman has:

      #1. Has 5ish locations that should not have NHL teams and are drains on the business.
      #2. Had a work stoppage at every opportunity there was to have a work stoppage.
      #3. Successfully turned the NHL into a dictatorship by getting the dumb owners to agree to require a more than 75% vote to overturn Bettman, in exchange for Bettman getting them a hard cap, that the owners continuously circumvent themselves on an annual basis, BTW.
      #4. Masking the financial issues of the league by adding new teams that have to cough up $500M+.
      #5. Refuse to address headshots and protect its own players.
      #6. Roll out a severely watered down product by having so many teams, resulting in players making the NHL that probably should not, to fill rosters.
      #7. Have significant influence on the officiating, and getting rid of refs that do not comply.

  • As a fan, I want to be entertained. Many young actors on broadway get minimum wage until their show it a hit. Point is that the market dictates what young players make, successful players make and what poor players make. The CAP and the NHLPA try to make this all work for all parties. It isn’t perfect, but my worry is that the game goes on, not their salaries.

  • I love Olympic hockey because it is hockey, a great game. It deserves the best players in the world for hockey fans and for the uninitiated. In my opinion, not participating is boneheaded.

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