As plenty of outlets are reporting, the NHL and the NHLPA finally decided that their game of silly bugger had reached its useful end early this morning, agreeing to terminate the lockout by signing a 10 year CBA. After the jump, a brief review of a few highlights from a Winnipeg POV.
1. 10 years at 50-50 should, at least for a few years, act as a drag on salaries. I’m about as pro-player as you can get, but if your viewpoint revolves around the idea that keeping the cap within hailing distance of what the Jets are likely to be able to spend is a good thing, then I suppose this should allow the club to only be restricted by its own competence. Based on the best guess of revenues, the team can likely work with a 60M payroll fairly easily, and given Mark Chipman’s past statements about how expected Winnipeg to be a mid-market spender under the old system, a new deal with some temporary salary drag should mean the club can spend closer to the maximum if need be.
2. I can’t see amnesty buyouts from the current roster absent Kevin Cheveldayoff having an epiphany regarding his number one goalie or Dustin Byfuglien coming to camp at three fiddy, so the only way the club can benefit from this circumstance is if another club buys out a player and the Jets pick them up off of the ground. The Upper Limit of 64.3M for next year almost certainly will ease that burden for a few teams, so other than obvious victims like Scott Gomez or Matt Stajan, the pickings via that route will be slim.
3. That same upper limit should assist the Jets in keeping their RFAs safely in house next summer. Richard Pollock at Illegal Curve ran through some of the numbers yesterday, showing the possibility of a tight fit under a 60M limit. The Jets shouldn’t need all of that extra 4M to ice a roster, but if the club is struck by a burst of ambition, there shouldn’t be any issues with keeping Bogosian, Wheeler, Little and Burmistrov while adding another decent vet. The team almost certainly will need a top 4 left D by 2013, and the internal options in that regard are virtually non-existant, so I might be inclined to add in that area via FA or trade.
4. There was no mention, at least from what I’ve seen, about realignment for 2013-14. Like the Olympics, that’s something that will have to be worked out after the fact, but I’m not entirely sure if the league’s four conference proposal will be the preferred route or if Winnipeg and Columbus simply swap out in the name of expediency. I suspect the Jets would like to limit the number of west coast road games for TV purposes, so given their choice they’d likely prefer the four conference deal. Being in the current Central division wouldn’t really help the team’s travel that much either, with multiple trips to the coast and Phoenix every year, so just switching with the Blue Jackets is really a half-baked solution.
As for the overall effect of the deal itself, the owners appear to have obtained much of what they wanted, but I’m not sure they obtained much of what they needed. The short term drag on player compensation will allow teams at the bottom to tred water for a few more years, and they’ll benefit from some extra revenue sharing, but the systemic fix that would magically make every team a money spinner isn’t in this deal, and I suspect that after a few years of relative harmony, the lower end teams will be once again scuffling to keep up with the top teams. We could well be back in this spot in eight years.
Of course, as is always the case with any collective agreement, the devil will be in the details. Other than a few leaks, we don’t have much to work with at the moment, so it would be wise to withhold final judgement until we see the entirety of the settlement. At any rate, we should have news about whether we have a 48 or 50 game season in fairly short order, and at the very least, we can start talking about actual on-ice events for the first time in months. For better or worse, game on.