Yes, you read that headline correctly, the salary cap has reared its polarizing head in the NHL CBA negotiations, or at least made its way into the periphery of them. This happened in Toronto on Tuesday and came courtesy NHLPA boss Donald Fehr.
Fehr sat down, apparently around a boardroom table, with the Toronto Star editorial board, and presumably reporters, in the city that never sees the Stanley Cup playoffs but remains a hockey hotbed. He implied that it's possible that without the season getting started soon, the players may decide to squawk about having to play under a salary cap.
“If this (lockout) goes on for an extended period of time I don’t know what they (the players) are going to do," Fehr told his audience. "But I think it’s safe to say, they would be exploring all options." The veteran labor negotiator had already implied an option would be to put the salary cap, or more accurately, it's removal from the CBA, back on the negotiating table.
With Salary Cap NHL contracts still grow
The salary cap was the contentious issue the owners lost the entire 2004-05 season over, finally getting the players to agree to one in June of 2005. It's arguable the cap hasn't harmed players as their average salary has increased each season since its inception and sits now at about $2.5 million per player per year. Recent contracts for Shea Weber ($80 million over the first six years of his 14 year deal), Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were record-setting, while Sidney Crosby is due make $12 million a season for three straight seasons beginning in 2013-14.
Fehr may have chosen the Toronto Star as the place to drop that bomb in order to maximize its value, knowing that the Star is one of Canada's bigger newspaper, and that other papers would pick up on his threat. If Fehr and the NHLPA were to demand the salary cap be removed before they signed? The result is anybody's guess.
The Star contacted NHL offices about Fehr's contention and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly responded via email. “Ultimately, it’s their call,” Daly told the newspaper. “Hopefully, we all want a quicker resolution to this negotiation than a longer one. How the PA ultimately decides to deal with that issue will be very telling.”
What may be even more telling would be the NHLs reaction to it.