Entry level contracts shouldn't be holding CBA talks up

Entry level contracts shouldn't be holding CBA talks up
November 15, 2012, 9:40 pm
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While the NHL and NHLPA are engaged in an epic game of shut up thats lasted almost a week, heres an interesting wrinkle on one of the player contract rights thats suddenly become a big bone of contention: Some NHL executives are actually surprised the players association hasnt jumped all over the two-year entry level as something that could become a potential boon to young NHL players.

Its been widely assumed that dropping the majority of entry-level contracts from three years to two years in the next CBA would wrangle down the skyrocketing second contracts NHL superstars like Taylor Hall (seven years and 42 million) and Tyler Seguin (six years and 34.5 million) have secured at precocious young ages.

Both forwards signed their pimped out second contracts just prior to the Sept. 15 work stoppage, and it was seen as both players getting deals done that might well become extinct in the brave new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But there are some NHL minds that think the two year entry level idea is something that serves the players as much if not more than it does the league.

I was actually surprised to see that one in the leagues proposal, and surprised it hasnt been received more favorably, said one league source. Think about it: the money teams are going to save by lopping off the third year in the entry level contracts isnt going to amount to a considerable sum. Most of those entry-level deals are for short money.

But for players like Seguin or Hall its going to get them to bigger dollar numbers more quickly. Rather than waiting for their fourth year in the league to really cash in, theyll be doing it a year earlier provided theyve shown they can play in the first two years.

Since both Hall and Seguin and Jeff Skinner to name a third signed their deals before their third NHL season, the argument that two seasons isnt enough time for players to establish lofty dollar values doesnt seem to hold water. Some NHL players dont develop until the third year of their entry-level deal, but those select skaters are actually in the minority when looking at big RFA contract extensions over the last few years.

Above and beyond the NHLs bright lights getting paid even earlier in their careers, a two-year entry level system would also make North America more attractive to European players looking to dip their toe in the waters. The Bruins had held the rights to Swedish import Carl Soderberg since trading Hannu Toivonens rights to the St. Louis Blues in 2007, but the enigmatic Swede has resisted all invitations for an NHL tryout.

Who knows?

Perhaps a smaller commitment of two years rather than three would entice some of the more sheepish foreign hockey imports like Soderberg that are currently shying away from North America.

Its certainly much more conducive to attracting players from Europe and Russia than switching to a five-year entry level contract that would tether them down for a half-decade.

Dropping to a two-year entry level system under the proposed player contract rights being offered by the NHL could result in a few more holdouts given the lessening of arbitration rights and a potential unrestricted free agent finish line pushed to 28 years old. Thats a potential downside when players have no other recourse, but the NHL owners will always pay money to protect the best, young, exciting talent on their respective teams. Players will also have the threat of offer sheets in the restricted free agency despite the fact many NHL GMs seem deathly allergic to the mere thought of them.

Even if the NHL CBA crafters believe that a two-year entry level system will bring back the traditionally modest second contracts to the NHL, the high number of players achieving stardom at 18 or 19 years old completely flies in the face of that theory.

It will be interesting to see how things play out, but dont be surprised if the NHLPA is remarkably compliant on the two-year entry level deal portion over the player contract rights theyre currently talking about.

Or not talking about as the case may be.