The new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was reached during the canceled 2004-05 NHL season brought with it some new rules and concepts which have changed the way team personnel are managed, and the league was dubbed the “New NHL”. The majority of these rules were financial based and have largely impacted the general managers in the league, limiting the high spending teams from acquiring every large contract and star player, ala the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox of the MLB. Some have come to grips with the new financial blockades and rule changes, while others are still watching the games on the television using an antenna making decisions that will cost their franchises for years to come.
There have been many players signed to lucrative long term contracts that have been manipulated to gain an advantage while still complying with the rules in the CBA. It started with Miikka Kiprusoff’s contract signed for the 2008-09 season, which will see him receive $35 million over six years, for an average cap hit of $5.833 million per season. But it isn’t the cap hit or length of term that started this side step of conventional rules; it is the concept of front loading that sparked this outlook on contract negotiation, as Kiprusoff was owed a salary of $8 million per year in the first three years of the deal. When the deal was signed many assumed that Kiprusoff would retire before the final season on his contract (that of 2013-14), foregoing the $1.5 million owed to him in that year. This would ensure that Kiprusoff recovered more than 95 percent of his guaranteed money for playing one less season; this would then allow him to head home to Finland and play into his late thirties in his homeland. Of course this was never publicly stated by the Flames or Kiprusoff himself, as that is a basis for circumvention of the cap, something the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk found out about this past summer. It was simply a start to where long term contracts seem to have spiraled.
Other, more recent contracts of this nature have moved even further into the grey area. In the past two seasons, players like Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, Boston’s Marc Savard, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, and Chicago’s Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith have all signed deals where the contracts have gone late into the players’ life with smaller salaries in those later years. As a result, decreasing the overall cap hit the team is charged for when calculating their team salary. The following specifically shows these players salaries, age of last year under contract, and discrepancy between the salaries owed in the first and last years:
>Player / Team / Last Season / Age In Last Yr / Avg Cap Hit / First Year $ / Last Year $
Henrik Zetterberg, Det, 2020-21, 40, 6.083, 7.4, 1.0
Johan Franzen, Det, 2019-20, 41, 3.955, 5.5, 1.0
Marc Savard, Bos, 2016-17, 39, 4.007, 7.0, 0.525
Roberto Luongo, Van, 2021-22, 43, 5.333, 10.0, 1.0,
Marian Hossa, Chi, 2020-21, 42, 5.233, 7.9, 0.75
Duncan Keith, Chi, 2022-23, 40, 5.551, 8.0, 1.65
The recent amendment to the CBA will bring into effect rules pertaining to players ages 36 and up, which will help to decrease the lowering of cap hits by extending the length of term. This will help to ensure that long term contracts aren’t being used in bad faith by the team or player. Consequently, it helped close the loophole that GMs had been jumping through trying to reduce cap hits and ice the best team possible. This is just one more way that the NHL has tightened it’s strangle hold on the NHLPA and its players.