Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Max Pacioretty's New Contract and an NHL CBA Update

Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin sure seems to have a plan.

Late last night, he continued fortifying the foundation of his team by inking star winger, Max Pacioretty, to a six-year deal.

By signing Pacioretty to an extension one full calendar year before his current contract expires, Bergevin continues to show that he is night to his predecessors' day.

One of the many things that boiled fans' blood during the Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier years, was their unwillingness to negotiate with players during the season. That and they would almost always wait till the player's contract had expired before discussing an extension.

That is such an old school, antiquated way of running business and the result was that Montreal, more often than not, lost free agent players for nothing.

I cannot overstate how important it is to maximize all of your assets in the salary cap era, and the previous regime's strategy almost always failed at this crucial task.

This move by Bergevin shows that the new regime truly understands the modern game.

Good for you, good for me...

The deal itself is for $27 million over six seasons or an average cap hit of $4.5 million per year.

As @nickcanhaztweet said to me on Twitter:

"I love it! If Pac continues to develop, its a steal. If he plateaus as a 30/60 player, its market value! Awesome signing!"

Not only is Bergevin locking in what he's identified as a key building block for this team—as he did with Carey Price only a few weeks ago—but he is getting fair to excellent value on the contract.

Pacioretty showed last season that he was a 30-plus goal and 60-plus point player. Granted, he only did so for one season but all indications are that he is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of.

The possibility of Pacioretty being a 40-goal, 80-point man is very real and if he can hit those kind of numbers, Bergevin is going to look like a genius. The bottom line, however, is that the contract is still good value even if Patches produces at the same rate he did last season.

So while I agree with my friend, @nickcanhaztweet, I won't go so far as to say it's a steal. But it's definitely a fair deal for both sides and could end up being a great one for the Habs.

On the CBA front

32 days.

That is how long the league and the players have left to iron out a new collective bargaining agreement, before Gary Bettman and his cronies lock the players out.

Is there enough time? Sure. In theory.

But with both sides stating that there is a "meaningful" gap on the core-economic issues, it's looking more and more like a lockout is inevitable.

That said, today is a very, very important day in determining whether a lockout is ultimately in the cards or not. Why?

Because today the NHLPA finally gives their first counter-proposal to the league.

This proposal has been in the works for weeks and is sure to swing the pendulum far from where the owners want it. But more important than the PA's proposal itself will be how the league reacts to it.

If there is anything that we have learned about Gary Bettman it's that he doesn't like having terms dictated to him. Moreover, his adversarial, condescending, petulant style does not lend to smooth negotiations. Bettman's tact seems to inflame things and creates an adversarial rather than cooperative approach.

So if Bettman and co. don't like what they read—which they undoubtedly will not—we could see a sort of entrenchment by the league.

And that will not lead to anything good.

That being said, and while I am sure that Bettman's proclamation that there will be a lockout if a new deal is not in place by September 15th, you have to think this is a lot of sabre rattling.

I mean, is the league really, truly prepared to scuttle the significant in-roads they have made in the U.S. market over the last five or six years? The game is bigger and more popular in the States than it has ever been at any point in history.

Thanks for Cup winners like Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and a successful Winter Olympics on North American soil, the U.S. audience (television and otherwise) have embraced the game in droves.

So is the league really willing to thumb their nose at that success, pushing hockey back to it's spot as the bottom feeder in U.S. sports?

Time will tell. For now, however, everyone is waiting with baited breath for the PA's proposal later today.

For what it's worth, I see a lockout as unavoidable at this point because of the league's current stance. That could change, but I think losing part of the season to a lockout is a mere hop, skip and a jump away.

What about you?

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Kamal is Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, C.O.O. of WebSports Media Network, and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com. Kamal is also an on-air contributor on TSN 990, CJAD, and LiveSport New Zealand.

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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

4 comments:

I think there will be a lot of topics that will eventually get ironed out before the beginning of the season:

1) The length of a players contract will probably be set at 7-8 years instead of the 5 proposed

2) UFA eligibility will be probably be around 7-9 years instead of 7

3) Pre-season, retirement issues, injury issues and all will get resolved not doubt.

The biggest problem is revenue sharing, salary cap, salary cuts and the players' share of the pie.
It's the financial governance model that will be put to the test.

Contrary to the last CBA barganing session with Goodenow around 2004, Bettman's view has been tested and found wanting in certain regards.

Poor markets continue to do poorly (Phoenix, Atlanta,etc.) Struggling markets are still struggling (NJ, STL, FLR, DAL) and prices have gone up to the maximum elasticity level allowable without losing fanbase and corporate lodging in my view.

In the meantime, owners have signed players to ridiculous long term contracts (DiPietro anyone? Kovalchuk?) and there is a major discrepency in wages for players. The top 20% of players make more money than the bottom 80% combined. Now the bulk of the team has to be under 27 or work for free.

Simply cutting players wages and % of revenue will not change the way owners behave. Self-interest will still be there, and it is a part of life in the NHL.

I believe that financial and contractual rules must be set that will circumscribe the way GM's and owners operate in the marketplace:

- Revenue sharing between 'have' and 'have not' teams.
- Cap allocation of financial ressources, to a players' contract as a percentage of the overall team cap.
- Stricter guidelines and rules of operations for players agents with regards to dealing with NHL teams.
-Elimination, or reduction in the % of of the frontloading of contracts
- Elimination of RFA offer sheets that only cause inflation.

These are but a few things that can be done to improve the NHL and change the current context

Thanks for the shoutout! I like this deal a lot, just need to lock up Subban!

@anon: Wow, bang on my friend! Excellent analysis...

And now that the PA's proposal has come in, with a surprisingly reasonable tone, perhaps the two sides can get down to some true negotiations!

Kamal,

There seems to be a recurring rumor that this time the owners are divided and Bettman is trying to get them back together by calling for a lockout if they don't get their way.

By offering what seems to be a reasonable first offer, the NHLPA looks like they may be trying to divide the owners with a lucrative revenue sharing deal that is certain to get the small market owner's support while getting the large market owners up in arms.
I don't think Bettman has ever had an adversary quite as savvy and polished as Fehr.

I just don't see a lockout or any type of stoppage this year. I can't imagine that either side has much of an appetite for it, regardless of Bettman's comments.

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