Minnesota wins the lottery

Or maybe, the anti-lottery, because they’ll be handing out lottery-winning class stacks of money to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.

I like this deal for Minnesota, for the players, and for the NHL, for a lot of reasons (and I dislike it for a few, too. nothing’s perfect).

What I really like about this deal: they guys didn’t go to (a) the team willing to give them the most money and (b) the team where they thought winning the Cup would be easiest. They went to a team that’s struggled to make the playoffs. While it’s easy to say “I didn’t do it for the money” when the choice is really which pile of money to choose, I’m happy to see these players went to a place where they are interested in building a winner.

I also really like this deal because it’s another case of top NHL talent coming to the Western conference. This, of course, annoys the hockey media in places like New York and toronto that seem to believe that all of the good players by definition should be in those cities, and the rest of the league ought to realize they only exist for light dates. This is especially true whenever these media types have to leave the eastern time zone or when games start at times that interrupt their beauty naps. Anything that honks off the parts of the media that think that the league should go back to small, NYR-Toronto-centered universe, well, I love it.

And I like this deal because it’s really, really honked off some of the fans in entitled places like Detroit and Philly (and yes, rangers and leafs fans, you, too), where there’s a belief that of course every free agent worth having is going to play for their team, because, well, that’s how it should be.

Signings like this are good for parity, and parity is good for the league, unless you believe the league starts at MSG and ends (or should) in Detroit. It’s good to see the league increasingly becoming a continent-wide league and not east-coast centric with outposts. Add in the Jagr signing in Dallas, and those east coast pundits are going to have to actually figure out what channel on their TV these other teams are broadcast on, and maybe stay up late to watch some of the hockey out here on the other coast. Oh, no, just joking. We know they won’t. they’ll just keep watching Rangers/Devils and whining about how the best players are hidden from the real fans out in the wilderness.

This isn’t a good signing for the Sharks and other western teams, because the west gets harder and more competitive. It’s good for western conference fans, because more of the elite/name players are ending up in the West where we’ll see them visit our home arenas more often than every other year. And I’m thrilled to see the Wild step up to become a serious contender, given how seriously they love their hockey there. That’s good for hockey, too.

What don’t I like about the deals? The length and size of the deals. they’re legal under the CBA, but these ten year and longer deals are bad for the game and manipulate the salary cap in ways that are bad for teams in the long run. Eventually, these kind of “sub prime mortgage” deals come home to roost, and then them team ends up struggling to compete until they dig their way out from under them. Part of the math behind these deals tend to assume the cap will always rise, which implies revenues will continue to rise. We felt that way about housing prices here in the States, remember? And when that came crashing down… well, among other things, the problem in Phoenix happened.

So my hope for the next CBA is this: cap length of contract. Five years, max. And limit the NUMBER of max-year contracts per team. I think teams need the ability to lock up their franchise players and compensate them fairly for being franchise players, but it’s bad business to commit too much to too many players over too long a term. So here’s my suggestion: two active contracts per team at five years, three more at four years. That will kill these ten and twelve year deals that spreads the cap hit out — and it doesn’t preclude a team from simply signing up a player to another five year deal in the year their existing deal is going to expire, if they really feel they’re going to be franchise-quality for ten years.

The problem is that these deals are paying players now with cap space that won’t come due for five or six years. I don’t blame teams for doing this — it’s legal. I don’t blame players for taking the money; I know I sure would. But is that really healthy for the league in the long run?

No. So I hope the league will find a way in the new CBA to remove this temptation and put contracts back in a “pay you for what you’re worth now” mode. this is a “hack” of the CBA that needs to be cleaned up.

update: Elliotte Friedman (one of the hockey writers I have great respect for) takes the idea of capping contract length and explains why it’s a lousy idea. He suggests limiting signing bonuses to a percentage of the salary in the year the signing bonus is issued. It’s an interesting concept, and the issues he brings up that could come along with a length cap are real and need to be considered. What the league needs to get away from is that the extended contract effectively gives teams a chance to “borrow” from future salary caps to pay players now, and that kind of credit card mentality eventually blows up in your face. Something needs to be done to keep spending in line with the cap on a year to year basis, and limit team’s abilities (not completely, but mostly) to suck up future cap into the present.