Media and fans say (and say frequently) that the owners could simply stop offering exorbitant, absurdly long-term contracts. That no restraints should be given them, that they could choose to be their own restraints. Nonsense.
Most of the owners want to win. Yes, they are businessmen, but sports journalists and fans are mistaken to lump all NHL owners into a autonomous group of greedy entrepreneurs who only want your buck; it is a given they want your buck but they would have gone into hawking cell phones or Justin Bieber dolls if that's all they wanted. They also want the Stanley Cup.
NHL overspending: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
Once the CBA between the league and NHLPA is set, most owners use it to their advantage, as much as their massive bank accounts allow, to put themselves into a position to win. They will pay
a Ryan Suter and a Zach Parise $98 million over 13 years, with massive bonuses given up front. The desire to win is what made Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider give Paul Holmgren permission to offer a giant contract
to Shea Weber, and it was the reason the Nashville Predators matched it.
There will always be owners who'll go farther than others, offer the maximum rules allow, to send their team over the top. It's comparable to how players do whatever they can on the ice to win, pushing rules, even injuring one another. So more rules are created - headshot rules are a recent case in point - to pull them back. So these negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA are not simply about how much each side gets but about adjusting the salary cap, limiting contract lengths - about pulling the owners back from hurting one another.
NHL owners: restraints in new CBA
When negotiations are complete if there are no rules to temper this spending we will continue to get contracts like the Parise/Suter contracts: absurd, lengthy, too rich and not commensurate with their contributions on the ice. That will see ticket prices continue to rise and in some cities it will see still more fans unable to afford the game. If it hasn't already, hockey at the NHL level will become for the wealthy only.
Gary Bettman and the owners know that the desire to win the Stanley Cup, the same one you'd have if you owned a franchise, drives up salaries and costs to fans. They know that without a salary cap and limits on term it will continue to get out of hand.
The new contract needs to protect owners from themselves.