One of the most surprising elements of the NHL's CBA proposal to the players was on Entry Level contracts:
Entry Level System commitment will be limited to two (2) years (covering two full seasons) for all Players who sign their first SPC between the ages of 18 and 24 (i.e., where the first year of the SPC only covers a partial season, SPC must be for three (3) years).
This was a radical shift from the NHL's initial proposal back in July, which called for a 5-year maximum on rookie contracts; in other words, young players would be locked into salary-restricted entry-level deals well into their productive years.
(On the flip side, their teams save money and keep talented young players in the fold.)
Why did the NHL decide short-term rookie deals were the way to go? Are you in favor of them?
You may wonder why the heck the league would want to shorten the entry-level deal.
Combined with the fact that the league also asked for a five-year limit on term for contracts and UFA eligibility to go to eight years or 28 years old, what the league is trying to do here is change the dynamics of the second contract -- limit the financial flexibility of the second contract -- and change the system so that players now make their big money in the third contract.
Look at the players that got in under the wire with their second contracts: Taylor Hall is a $6 million a year (beginning in 2013-14) player despite never having broken 60 points; Jeff Skinner had 63 points to win the Calder and then struggled in his sophomore season, but also earned a $6 million annual salary deal (6 years) from the Carolina Hurricanes.
There's no denying the talent both players possess; but at this point in their careers, this is still playing for potential.
So is this a contentious element in the new deal? Yes it is, as Mirtle writes in the Globe & Mail:
Players believe making entry level deals (Standard Player Contracts) shorter and moving arbitration eligibility later will leave a large group of young players entering their third, fourth and fifth seasons without a contract and without any way to negotiate a deal beyond holding out.
Currently, arbitration acts a "fail-safe" for getting a "fair" deal done for many of these players. The league, however, believes too many unproven young players are being paid well too early in their careers.
There are also some proven young players that get overcompensated in their second contracts.
Hey, look, Drew Doughty's an outstanding player who now has a Stanley Cup ring. But he has a higher cap hit from his second contract ($7 million) than Zdeno Chara does as a 35-year-old defenseman ($6,916,667).
The combination of contractual changes proposed by the NHL would, in theory, force young players to make less money because their leverage is limited. But as one anonymous agent told Michael Traikos of the National Post, the cream of the crop will still get their money:
"If the guy's a good player, we're going to negotiate early anyway," he said. "We're still going to get it. At the end of the day, a team's not going to let a good player go."
The rookie contract limit and the 5-year cap on all contracts are two options that Donald Fehr could target and, in theory, "win" for the players in a counterproposal. (Especially the 5-year cap, which seems designed for Fehr to pivot off of to, say, a 7-year cap.)
But even if it goes through, do you trust the owners' self-control enough to keep the salaries of young players deflated in the next CBA, even with the restrictions?