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An increase in the NHL salary cap far from a sure thing

Image (1) Fehr-thumb-200x300-7850.jpg for post 2157

With all of this talk about teams making trades for salary cap purposes and the hand wringing that is taking place over a team’s salary situation, it’s important to note a few things.

First, we get all over our salary information from, what I feel is the best source for cap information that can be found on the web. Secondly, all of this talk about just how far under -- or over -- a team is relative to the salary is using the same cap that was in place last season: $56.8 million.

That’s not going to be the same next season. Since we don’t know exactly what the change will be we can only go by what the cap currently is. So what will the change be?

The first option is for the cap to be raised yet again -- this time to $58.8 million. That may not sound like that much, but that extra $2 million is a big deal for many teams, and could be the difference between a league-minimum entry-level player and a significant upgrade via free agency.

The other option is more dire: the cap would actually drop by $200,000, leaving a number of teams in a lurch. You would think that the cap going up would be the ideal situation for all involved and especially the players -- not so, says James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Mirtle paints an interesting picture as the NHL Players Association gets set to meet in Chicago on Monday, as the players must vote on whether to raise the cap without a formal director in place. Donald Fehr will be in attendance, and there are many who think he’s the right man for the job, but some say he may decide not to take the position if he sees another bout of in-fighting within the union.

Says one agent, per James Mirtle:

“He’s either going to take the position that he’s going to evaluate what the players decide and that will affect in turn his decision, or he will urge the players to take the [cap] escalator, extend the [collective agreement] and then if they don’t go along with that vote, he knows where he stands and he’ll check out,” said one agent who asked to remain unidentified.

There’s no doubt that the NHLPA needs a strong leader, and despite fears that Fehr taking the job would lead to another lockout he’s experienced when it comes to helping rebuild a player’s association -- and the NHLPA is a mess.

So why would the players not want to approve the spike in the salary cap? The issue, says Mirtle, is escrow payments.

If the cap is raised and most teams spend to that limit, then it’s likely that once again the NHL would outspend revenues and the players will see another big chunk of change withheld from their paychecks. If this is the overwhelming fear, then the players will vote against the cap increase and teams will be forced to dump salary and not spend as much in free agency.

This is where the in-fighting comes in and where a director is most needed: the escrow payments are effecting the players that already have long, expensive contracts while the drop in the salary cap will seriously impact pending free agents in a very negative way. Having a director like Fehr in place would head off these issues at the pass and give the NHLPA the stabilizing factor it so desperately needs; unfortunately he hasn’t decided if he wants the job just yet.

Ultimately, it’s in the best interested of the NHLPA to vote for the increase and extend the CBA, and it’s the consensus among the agents that this is what is best for the players. Every season another round of players become free agents and every year another group of players benefits from the cap increase. Either the players can decide to be greedy now, or decide on what is best for the NHLPA in the long run.