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article imageOp-Ed: When fringe NHL players make more than franchises, time to adjust

By Marcus Hondro     Nov 23, 2012 in Sports
There will be no end to the NHL's lockout if the players can't get it out of their collective heads that they should not have to make concessions. They must do so because Gary Bettman and the owners are understandably tired of losing. Losing money.
Here's some reality for Donald Fehr and Sid the Mega-Rich Kid, for the opinionated Ian White and Jonathan Toews and the rest of the NHLPA: In 2011-12, Columbus Blue Jackets' winger Derek Dorsett managed 20 points in 77 games, 12 goals, 8 assists, and was a minus 11. In compiling those numbers, Dorsett, at a salary of $575,000, also managed to make more money than most of the 30 NHL franchises. Does that make sense?
Forbes: NHL teams losing money
There seem few fans, and fewer NHL players, who believe Bettman's claims that an adjustment to player salaries is needed for the health of the league. Most are convinced, it appears, that it's about owners greedily trying to gouge their employees and the reaction to Bettman's insistence that teams are losing money is more often one of the following : 1) they refuse to believe it or 2) they say it's the owner's fault and so, well, so too bad.
That most NHL franchises are not turning a profit is easy enough to support. Here's what I wrote in a recent piece that suggested the NHLPA should focus on negotiating a CBA and not 'fixing' the league's problems: "Kurt Badenhausen from Forbes wrote a piece in September just before the lockout...and Badenhausen is known for producing well-researched, accurate stories. "We estimated that 18 teams lost money during the 2010-11 season in our annual look at the business of hockey," he wrote. "Several other teams barely eked out a profit.""
Badenhausen and Forbes found that the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens had healthy profits, while the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers managed marginal profits. Those teams combined totaled $212 million in profit, Badenhausen wrote, with "the remaining 25 teams posting a (combined) loss of $86 million."
NHL franchises: competitive owners
Most fans and players who do believe that owners are losing money seem to feel players should continue to get large salaries because the owners overspend. The owners are guilty of overspending, with the 25-year-old Sidney Crosby already having made $47 million in his career. Of course he's a superstar - though I'd still argue he's not deserving of that much salary - but even Dorsett, unknown by a majority of fans and also 25, has made $2.5 million already and over the next three seasons, whether he plays in the minors or NHL, will make $5 million more.
Is it entirely the fault of owners that some throw money around indiscriminately? As in the case of the contracts signed by Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, or the one handed Nashville's Shea Weber (in the first 2 years, he gets $50 million!). One problem with simply blaming owners is that the 'market' keeps creeping up and player agents have 30 teams to select from when negotiating for a free agent. The salary cap has helped but front-end loaded long-term contacts like Weber's negate it. (Those contracts benefit only a small percentage of players, so it's conceivable the rank and file of the NHLPA will not be happy if they become a sticking point.)
Further, owners are competitive, too, and are trying to ice a winning team and if rules allow them to offer more money to sign a player, more often they'll be one willing to do it, even if it hurts their profitability and that of the league, as when the Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber to that crazy offer sheet. The reality is owners are forever being tempted by winning! To agree to stop on their own would be collusion so they need help from the CBA in the form of rules to stop themselves from themselves, like players need headshot rules to stop themselves from themselves. No business can survive losing money so without such rules the NHL's viability is in jeopardy.
Gary Bettman: salary adjustments in CBA
So that's what Gary Bettman is talking about when he speaks of an adjustment in player salaries for the health of the game. It's not the owners being greedy, nor is it owners trying to stick it to the players out of malice, or whatever it is that Donald Fehr and all the other opponents of Bettman and the NHL think it is. The players average salary will go down from the near $2.5 million it was last year, true, but not significantly.
Finally, Derek Dorsett and Tanner Glass, Tom Wandell, Jamie McBain, Cam Fowler, Raphael Diaz and the other 740 or so players in the NHLPA, whether fringe players or superstars, deserve a healthy profit for their troubles. The trouble is that there's something they don't seem to understand.
So do the franchises themselves.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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