As a Canadian, particularly as one working for a US company, the exchange rate between the two countries is something that I have an active and consistent interest in, but I have to imagine that most Americans don't really care too much about how the US dollar (USD) is doing compared to its Canadian counterpart. If you're a hockey fan though, it's something worth keeping an eye on, especially right now.
The NHL is unique among the big four North American team sports in that it leans a fair amount on Canadian markets, but of course all player contracts are paid out in USD. That leads to a scenario where a major part of the Canadian teams expenses are in USD, but a chunk of their revenue is still in Canadian. That doesn't matter much during times of relative equality between the currencies, but the Canadian dollar has been on a downward slope over the last couple years and that's intensified recently to the point where the loonie is worth less than 70 cents American.
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In the past a wide gap between the currencies has been a contributing factor in smaller Canadian teams moving south of the border, but it's probably unfair to look for parallels now because that was before the salary cap, so the league's business model is significantly different now. What this does mean though is that Canadian teams are taking a hit and while I'm not going to pretend to be a financial expert that can break down the numbers for you, a falling Canadian dollar did contribute increasing less than expected for the 2015-16 campaign (from $69 million to $71.4 million), so it seems logical to assume that the continued decline is putting a strain on the potential figures for the 2016-17 cap.
That's naturally bad news for any players that hit the unrestricted free agent market next summer as there will be less money to go around, but it's also bad for teams that have made serious long-term commitments to players in the hopes that cap growth would make those deals look better over time. Chicago is the most obvious example of a team that can be hurt indirectly by the falling Canadian dollar as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are playing out matching $10.5 million contracts. By contrast, this can be beneficial to teams with plenty of cap space as it might present more opportunities to pry contracts away from cap-strapped teams. A promising young player like Brandon Saad, for example, wouldn't have ended up with Columbus if not for Chicago's cap situation and while this has been a bad season for the Blue Jackets, the fact that they got Saad is still a long-term win for them.
So the Canadian dollar is something that could have a very real impact on your favorite team, but whether or not its beneficial one is largely situational.
One other wrinkle in all of this: With the Canadian dollar being as low as it is, it might hurt the chances of Quebec City getting an expansion franchise. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet that the dollar does impact "what a Quebec franchise would do in the short-term," although he went on to suggest that "it’s not as much an issue for the National Hockey League as it might be for a potential Quebec ownership group."
Alex Ovechkin scored his 500th and 501st goals on Sunday and he's still just 30 years old. The NHL is a league that favors the young, but there are plenty of examples of forwards that stay great well into their 30s, which begs the question: What is the ceiling for Ovechkin. If he scored 501 goals in his first 10.5 seasons, is it unreasonable to assume that he can get another 393 markers in his next 9.5 campaigns, which would cover the rest of his 30s? Because at that point he would have closed the gap with Wayne Gretzky.
That would be a monumental feat, not just because he'd be matching the all-time leading goal scorer, but because he'd be accomplishing it during an era that has been significantly more stingy than Gretzky's time. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was typical for teams to finish a season with an average somewhere in the range of 3.5 to 4 goals per game, depending on the season. By contrast so far the average team this season has gotten 2.65 goals per contest. In fact, in reaching the 500-goal milestone at his age, Ovechkin has led the league in goals on five separate occasions, not including this season. Gretzky led the league in goal scoring five times over his entire career.
Suffice it to say that what Ovechkin has already done shouldn't be downplayed, but at the same time, the chances of him closing that gap are still small. It would require Ovechkin to see very little in the way of decline going forward, even into his late 30s. On top of that, Ovechkin would have to maintain his good health, which is something that may unfortunately leave him as he ages. The margin of error when it comes to Ovechkin reaching Gretzky's mark is so slim that even one major injury between now and the end of his career could be enough to derail it all.
At the same time, you never know. Jaromir Jagr has 15 goals this season at the age of 43. He's an anomaly, but is it possible that Ovechkin could be chipping in well into his 40s? If he's close to Gretzky's record by the time he reaches his 40th birthday, will he commit himself to extending his career in order to close that gap?
While Ovechkin's journey might not end with him setting a new record, it will certainly be a fun one to watch. As it is, the next big milestone for Ovechkin is just around the corner as he needs three more goals to enter into the top-40 of the all-time list, surpassing Peter Bondra in the process.