Saturday, November 05, 2005

Send You Down Today. Call You Back Up Tommorow

The new NHL CBA completely resets the rules that govern the NHL installing a salary cap. One ridiculous situation that has developed is that of teams sending players to the minors on offdays only to call them back up on game days. As the CBA is written, this is a sensible thing to do. Teams get charged the player's salary against the salary cap only on days when the player in called up in the NHL. As a result, if a player is on a two-way contract (where they get paid at a lower rate in the minors) abd does not require waivers to be sent up or down it makes sense to not have these players on the roster unless they are playing in a game that day. This money saved might be useful down the road for a player who may be acquired for the stretch run in a trade. Since we have yet to have a season under this CBA, we are yet to see if this works. Will there be any such players available in trade deadline deals or not?

Tom Benjamin writes about one of the more ridiculous examples of this where the Vancouver Canucks are shuttling Josh Green and Rob McVicar back and forth between their AHL affiliate in Winnipeg (the Manitoba Moose) and Vancouver. Because of the lack of west coast teams, Vancouver has one of the larger separations between themselves and their affiliate so their players must spend more time travelling in these pointless trips. Most other teams have their farm teams closer. For example, the Philadelphia Flyers and their AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms share a practise facility, but nevertheless are shuttling R J Umberger between the two teams for salary purposes. Here is the Philadelphia Inquirer story on this.

This is all really stupid. Its one of those unitended consequences that come with making too many changes at once. What can be done to fix this? The ideal situation is to go back to the old pre-salary cap NHL. Barring that, the problem can be solved by fixing aroster size.

The salary cap sets the limit that a team can play their players, but does not set how many players will be on their roster. As a result, teams try to have as few players as possible even if it is to the decrement of their on ice product. Under the salary cap, there is no point having a healthy scratch ever, if the player can be sent to the minors. Of course, in reality, there is benefit to practising with the team and having freedom of a few extra players to modify your roster to better suit the game that you expect to play.

Why not have a team salary assume 23 non-injured reserve players - even if a team does not have that many on their roster? Empty roster spots would be changed at the NHL minimum wage. Then there is no benefit to having less than a full roster. Of course, this is a slightly larger hit in the money that can be paid to the players. So again, I would prefer no salary cap.

Another solution would be to charge a salary on game days only. In an 82 game season, players on the roster get 1/82 nd of their salary each game day. So there is no benefit to sending players to the minors on offdays. This wont limit sending healthy scratches to the minors however. Once again I suggest no salary cap.

There are many reasons I oppose a salary cap. Here is something I wrote in March about why a salary cap is bad for the NHL. The reasons are far deeper than today's loophole.

NOTE: I just noticed this Ken Wiebe article on this topic.

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