The NHLPA's first proposal in the CBA negotiations was a shrewd, calculated move whose proactive nature (and lack of scorched-earth bluster) caught the NHL off-guard. We'll dig a little deeper into that later; but first, a tantalizing detail from the proposal via Larry Brooks:
"Clubs could go up to $4M over cap and drop to $4M under floor by adding or trading cap space re PA proposal...."
Part of PA Proposal includes ability to "trade" cap space. Same amount of money/cap remains in system yet can be redistributed or "bought." Have been told it's a minor part of PA Proposal and has very limited use, specifically for teams in distress. Doubt the League will agree.
Perhaps, but there's no question that the ability to trade cap space is something on which both the Haves and the Have-Nots might find some common ground.
The essential question here is whether trading salary space will (a) make for a better product and (b) benefit the League's struggling teams.
On that first point, the signs point to "yes." It would allow for more trades, and especially more movement at the trade deadline.
Before the CBA negotiations got rolling, Ian Mendes of the Ottawa Citizen thought trading cap space was a keen idea:
By allowing teams to trade money, it would open up the door to more trades. A more radical idea would be to allow teams to trade cap space, so if a team like Phoenix has $20 million in dead cap space, they could move $5 million of that to the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade. Or maybe you can allow teams to trade a maximum of $3 million cap space at the deadline for deals that are about to expire. I know these might controversial ideas, but I think most hockey fans are in favour of anything that facilitates more trade options.
Ideologically, this lines up with what Brian Burke and Peter Chiarelli have been preaching for years: To allow big-market teams more flexibility vs. the salary cap; although their rallying cry has usually been the sharing of a contractual burden on big salary busts.
On that second point — would trading salary cap space benefit the League's struggling teams?
The NHLPA proposal seems rather narrow in defining the teams that could trade cap space. From TSN's Aaron Ward, a former mover and shaker in the NHLPA:
"A franchise in distress under special circumstances, would be permitted to trade/sell up to $4 million in cap space to another team giving the team a way of getting another 'paycheck'. This would be VERY limited and only available to teams in need."
This almost sounds like a way for teams having serious revenue stream problems to fill up the piggy bank with big-market money by auctioning off salary cap space.
Which, frankly, sounds like an argument for contraction more than dispersal of assets around the NHL.
I'd be willing to consider a plan in which draft picks or players move from a Have to a Have-Not in exchange for their unused cap space. It allows the dregs of the League to get better, and allows the League's elite teams — presuming ones that spend to the cap are elite and not the Calgary Flames — to get stronger for a playoff run.
But selling off unused cap space … I don't know, there's a whiff of destitution there that turns my innards. Even if, in the end, the $4 million the team receives could be the difference between retaining or losing its own talent.
What say you to trading and/or selling cap space?