When the NHL’s 29 owners sit down to vote on the nearly completed collective agreement Wednesday, they’ll be looking at a document with some interesting revisions from the last time around.
The changes are many and varied, and two of the primary ones could have a major impact on the Vancouver Canucks‘ ability to make a blockbuster trade and ship netminder Roberto Luongo out of town.
Among the key revisions to the deal is a provision where teams can retain some of the salary of players in trades, which would likely allow far more deals to take place than under the last collective agreement, as big salaries would be “eaten” in part by the teams that signed them.
Other items of note include penalties for when players retire early from existing long-term deals, a salary floor that rises slower than the cap, and a minimum player salary that will climb to $750,000 (U.S.) by the final year of the proposed 10-year agreement.
But it is that ability to retain salary in trades – which could make a Luongo trade easier to pull off – and the potential penalties for long-term deals – which could make moving the netminder’s 12-year deal much more difficult – that Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will likely be pouring over when the final document finally lands in his inbox in the coming days.
Whether they help or hinder Gillis’s ability to move Luongo, who has long rumoured to be headed to Toronto, remains to be seen, but either way, these complex new aspects of the agreement will play a key role in negotiations with Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke.
What follows is a breakdown of how some of these rules will work:
Keeping salary in a trade
Allows teams to: Assume up to 50 per cent of the remainder of a contract in order to move a player.
The specifics: Teams can only keep up to 15 per cent of their cap space in deals they have traded away, and they are only allowed to have three contracts like this on their books in a season.
Why it’s important: With so many players signed to long-term deals, teams were having a difficult time making trades. This allows general managers more flexibility and to partially undo past mistakes by eating some of a bad contract but still moving the player.
The “cap benefit recapture” formula
Allows teams to: Be penalized for contracts that effectively circumvent the salary cap when players retire early.
The specifics: The NHL went hard after what it calls long-term, back-diving contracts that became plentiful in the last collective agreement, and this rule will mean teams pay a price for having signed those that go beyond six years in length. (One example could well be Luongo, who at 33, still has 10 years left on a deal he will not likely complete. If he doesn’t, then the CBR formula will put a charge on the Canucks salary cap after he retires. This will also apply to any team that might trade for him, which potentially makes moving the veteran more difficult.)
Why it’s important: Teams gain an advantage when they sign star players to back-diving deals because their salary cap hit is lower than what they’re actually being paid in the start of the deal. This rule dissuades teams from attempting to “beat” the cap in that fashion.
New calculations for the cap and floor
Allows teams to: Spend a wider range of money on player salaries.
The specifics: In the last collective agreement, the cap and floor were tied exactly $16-million apart, no matter what. In this new deal, they will instead shift 15 per cent away from a midpoint, meaning the gap between the two can stretch anywhere from $16-million to $28-million.
Why it’s important: Poorer NHL teams were having a hard time keeping up with the salary floor in the last agreement, when the cap rose quickly and brought the minimum with it. This allows for the floor to rise more gradually when revenues go up.
The end of re-entry waivers
Allows teams to: Recall players from the minors without worrying about a team claiming them on waivers for half their salary.
The specifics: Previously, teams were reluctant to call players who were eligible for re-entry waivers because they didn’t want to get stuck with a charge against the cap.
Why it’s important: This will allow every player in the AHL to be recalled using the normal waiver process regardless of their salary, which will likely lead to increased pay for minor-league players and call-ups.
A higher minimum salary
The specifics: The NHL’s minimum salary will go from $525,000 this season, to $550,000 next year, $575,000 in 2015, $650,000 in 2017, and eventually up to $750,000 in 2021.
Why it’s important: One way teams could try to stay under the salary cap would be to sign several players for a very low number and dedicate most of their money to a few stars. This ensures even players on the low end are well paid.