What If ?

When trying to find a logical explanation it is always comes down to what one believes and how much the situation really matters to them. For die hard NHL fans, as well as Blackhawk faithful here are some things which should matter. 

As the habitual NHL apologists continue to defend the poorly written CBA…. 

What if the CBA actually was written as if it took a year to put together rather than a long a weekend? 

Certainly the latest Ilya Kovalchuk saga would never have happened. Also the contracts for other long term, front end loaded signings would not be in jeopardy today. 

If there would have been a couple of additional sentences added to the CBA the NHL might not appear as if its rule book was written in water color.

Let’s keep this simple and move past any age stipulations and only add a couple of sentences to the CBA.

If there was a clause which stated a certain percentage of a player’s salary had to be dispersed to him in the last years of a contract, this shameful mess could have been avoided.

How about this for an added clause? 

During the last 40% of a player’s contract term, at least 20% of his salary must be paid out.  

For example, in a 10 year $100 million contract, at least $20 million would have to be paid out in the final four years of the agreement. The payout percentage in the final years possibly could be different, maybe it should be 25% or 30%, but at least there would be an exact guideline in place.

The Kovalchuk contract, which was revoked had the Devils paying him on average about $7 million in the final seven years of the proposed 17 year agreement. That amount happens to represent only about 7% of the $100 million contract value.

The additional money due in the later portion of a long term contract would make a big difference for a possible buyout.  It would also make an aging player less attractive on the trade market.  In essence the economics would make the mega long term, front end loaded contracts less likely to occur. 

As it stands now the NHL just continues to stumble along appearing as if they are re-interpreting rules whenever they must. 

What if the Marian Hossa contract is now considered a circumvention of the CBA? 

Anything can happen in the NHL but it would be hard to believe the league will mess with the Hossa contract. They already blessed the deal, but even more important he has fulfilled one year of the contract. There would be a multitude of lawsuits coming at the NHL if they tried to void the Hossa deal. 

If somehow the league did rescind the Hossa contract the Hawks might be screwed.

Most likely Hossa’s next contract would have to be shortened, which would mean a higher cap hit unless he signed for less money. Hossa’s options are limited too, so he probably would be driven to make it work in Chicago. 

If Gary Bettman made waves about the Hossa contact immediately following the Stanley Cup Finals, maybe things would be a lot different.  

Certainly Hawk management would wince at the thought of losing Hossa, but they might not have been too upset. With Hossa gone a few younger Hawks who had to be traded away would still be able to play in Chicago. 

Maybe the Blackhawks would have taken one on the chin…For the good of the league, don’t you know

Hossa is the most talented Blackhawk and couldn’t be replaced with only one player. Two months ago his loss would have been much easier to bear. Maybe given the choice Hawk management would rather have had some combination of Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd instead of Hossa. 

What if Hawk fans would have chosen to believe what was written concerning Niemi’s likely arbitration award? 

There were some who wrote Niemi would really strike it rich and earn close to $4 million next season. To add to the lunacy some thought Stan Bowman would have enough cap space available to re-sign Niemi for as much as $3.5 million. 

Those which can tell the difference between a hard salary cap and a hard boiled egg knew the Hawks were going to be facing many roster changes this summer. The high alerts on the changing of personnel kicked in December 3, 2009, when the big three (Kane, Keith and Toews) were all re-signed. 

The reality is the Blackhawks salary cap dilemma was far worse than many thought. 

What if Blackhawk fans choose to blame the NHL salary cap for the break-up of a young, talented championship team? 

My thinking is the rules are the rules, no matter how misguided they might be. 

The NHL needs a salary cap and a properly written CBA. Hopefully neither today’s salary cap nor the CBA will resemble the new agreement in place a few years from now. In a perfect world the CBA would be worked on today, and polished up sooner than later. 

If the purpose of the NHL salary cap was to provide financial parity, it has failed. Many of the same franchises which lost money before the lockout are still deeply in the red today.   

As far as the Hawks are concerned, the first signal of future cap trouble started with the Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet free agent signings. The qualifying offer screw up from last summer contributed with some unnecessary spending as well. The other contributing factor came with the overpayment of a few talented, inexperienced players. Too many young promising Blackhawks went from earning close to the NHL minimum to a $3 million payday.

Until there is a way to take back salary when attempting to trade off big contracts or some sort of a luxury tax is put in place it will be difficult to keep a young talented team together. Especially, as in the Hawks’ case, when a bunch of young players become very good all at once.

Hawk fans should be thankful management put the team in position to win the grand prize. Spending a fortune on player salaries doesn’t guarantee a Stanley Cup. Hawk faithful should realize loading up for one big swing at any championship doesn’t often work.  

The NY Yankees spend to the hilt every year and have won five World Series since 1996, which is a high success ratio. But there have been many more seasons since 1996 in which the Yanks have failed to win the World Series, some years they haven’t come close. It is also far easier to keep a baseball team together as long as management is willing to spend excessively for every campaign.

If Blackhawk fans want to lament about the summer of 2010…Just imagine what it would feel like if the Cup wasn’t in Chicago. 

There has been speculation concerning disunity among NHL players over the current CBA. It is no wonder considering there are so many players signing league minimum deals or reduced two-way contracts than those striking it rich.  

The current economic environment has helped the Blackhawks re-sign players to skinny contracts. But the salary cap and current CBA isn’t working out great for all involved. 

That’s what happens when there are more players looking for jobs around the league than available cap space. 

Al’s Shots 

I really wanted to let the Antti Niemi, Bill Zito, Stan Bowman saga rest, but not yet….

So sometime next week I will take one last look as to why Niemi isn’t a Blackhawk.

Not sure where Niemi will end up, but I still find it curious Carey Price wasn’t re-signed before the Jaroslav Halak trade. 

It has been reported the Hawks have signed Fernando Pisani to a one year, $500,000 contract. Pisani suffers from colitis and has had other health issues. 

If healthy he could add some skill and needed experience to the line-up. Last season Pisani  played in only 40 games.

It might not be etched in stone but odds are Kyle Beach will start the year Rockford.

Maybe if he has a great camp things could be different. But from what I can tell Beach does his best work in games…not practices. Beach will learn in Rockford how important  practice and preparation really is, and he will have more time to figure things out. 


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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, all excellent ‘what ifs’.

    There was a very insightful article in Forbes on the shortcomings of the CBA, including what appears to be conflicting language in various sections. Link here:

    “Understanding Subsequent Challenges To NHL Contracts”

    Click the link below to read the full story:

    Gary Bettman and the BOG sent a very clear message to the NHLPA with the Kovalchuk Kontrakt. I believe this was a ‘trojan horse’ put together with Lamoriello and Vanderbeek, to ‘flush out’ the militants in the PA, and more importantly, hold Donald Fehr’s feet to the fire.

    The league appears to have succeeded.

    As for the Hawks’ cap crunch, Tallon served his purpose, and now collects a very handsome salary in Florida where he can play golf and tennis all year round with his new boss Mike Yormark.

    The Bowmans have their father and son Stanley Cup, and Rocky Wirtz has paid tribute to his father and grandfather.

    Blackhawks fans can hardly believe 49 years of suffering is over.

    The new blood will get its chance to take a swing at a Cup re-peat. Right now, the Vegas odds are favorable.

    Life is good.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Good point Dave and that isn’t the first time that I have haerd the same…If Big Lou gets turned down anyone can.

  2. Brian says:

    If the Hossa deal is voided and part of the ramifications are that the Cup win is nullified, the NHL will cement it’s place in history; i.e., it will be history. As a season ticket holder I can tell you I’d personally sue the league and the organization to rescind my current season tickets and to refund me for last year’s season and playoff tickets. I think I would have a better than even chance of not only winning but setting significant legal precedent regarding the rights of ticket purchasers who are a necessary third party to a two-party agreement. I would never set foot in another NHL arena and I’d never spend another single, solitary dime on NHL merchandise. I do not think I would be alone as I think Hawk fans would revolt en masse and I don’t see how the league survives if the Blackhawk organization ceases to exist. Therefore, I could never see the Cup being touched by any ruling which is what I care about most. But, then again, Bettman…

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Hey Brian,

      Thanks for response..

      I never took it to the extreme of sacrificing the CUP win…that couldn’t happen…BUT no other major sports league makes up rules as they go along like the NHL.

  3. shruew says:

    I guess, ultimately, “Who Knows” – but can you imagine the stupidity of the NHL in voiding essentially the 2009 season because of Hossa’s contract. Especially this close to the new season when things should be looking UP? (For the same reason, I dont really expect much to happen with the old contracts).

    I thought Niemi could land a three year deal @ $3m somewhere. But it’s looking like a 1 year deal at a 1.X.

  4. Al Cimaglia says:

    Niemi’s in a corner….biggest out could be Montreal.

  5. hockeynut says:

    Philly and Washington, just off the top of my head, should be kicking the tires on Niemi right about now. They are built to win now and are far from proven in goal.

    It would be a good message to the room in both cities.

    This situation is fascinating. What in the heck is Montreal doing?

    • shruew says:

      Niemi is proven in goal? If I had to choose between Valamov and Niemi I’d take the Russian hands down.

  6. hockeynut says:


    Point taken.


    I said. “Kick the Tires” not sign out of desperation.

    Just because Niemi and/or his agent did not read his worth accurately does not mean he is worthless.

    And, yes, winning a Stanley Cup gets you a check in the proven box.

    Varlamov is a promising young keeper with fewer regular season starts than Niemi. He also has a little bit of a rep of not coming up big when it matters most. Granted, that goes for most of the Caps.

    This is not an either or scenario. Signing Niemi doesn’t mean you get rid of Varlamov. The Caps have the space.

    • shruew says:

      Yes, 4 fewer starts than Niemi… :)

      I do agree that it seems like Niemi might have to sign somewhere and fight for a job.

  7. General_Sosabowski says:

    This may not be a realistic scenario, but here it is:

    Are we at the point where the 12-15 most successful franchises would be better off by jumping from the NHL and forming a new league? These clubs have lost over 150 million to revenue sharing since the lockout, and some folks are beginning to wonder if the “weak sisters” are actually diluting the potential value of a national television contract.

    Mc79 recently posted a very disturbing article along these lines that is well worth a read.

  8. Al Cimaglia says:


    I don’t know if you rememeber the WHA but it almost made it…

    It is something I will discsuss in the future but it isn’t so far fetched to consider another league. Actually a few retired rich players could spear head a new league…

    • Dave Morris says:

      Al, of course you and I remember the WHA very well indeed…it forced the NHL to re-align itself, while taking on four new teams in Hartford, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Quebec.

      There is a sense of inevitability about where things are going…in that, as Scotty Bowman pointed in an excellent radio interview with PrimeTime Sports in Toronto about ten days ago, many NHL teams can’t afford to operate with a cap floor of $40 million (especially, according to Bowman, when they used to work with half that).

      The real problem with starting a new league would be that marketing costs alone could be crippling.

      Scotty and Stan Bowman are putting in place what seems to be a pre-emptive strategy: reduce the team’s cap hit and be prepared for a stagnant or reduced ceiling over the next three to five years.

      If the numbers crunch that we are seeing now throughout the NHL continues, most UFAs/RFAs will have a lot of trouble getting big dollars…and all but a few will end up signing for less or going elsewhere.

      The KHL and European Leagues could become the recipients of that talent exodus.

  9. Grinder says:

    >Really enjoy your insights, Al
    >Your readers also have excellent comments
    >I’m a lifetime Hawk fan from way back
    >Regarding your latest: Larry Brooks had an excellent and very disturbing article in the 8/15 NY Post about the mess the NHLPA is in — net, net was that the NHLPA didn’t want to pony up the $ for a top-flight lawyer to argue Kovy’s case — and the NHLPA lawyer got chewed up by Bettman’s lawyer — Brooks lays out a possible future for the players and the league that is frightening — including the cap dropping considerably next year
    >The General’s comments are timely and spot on: if I’m Rocky Wirtz it’s time to unify the 12-15 clubs who are on solid ground and dictate terms to Bettman or leave and start their own league
    >With a luxury tax, the Blackhawks would have had the chance to be “the NY Yankees of hockey” but with Bettman running the NHL the league takes two steps forward — three back every year

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      In many ways the “Old Boys” Club mentality still exists in the NHL…For things to change a strong group of business minded individuals need to lead the charge. Those which are more business minded and not concerned with the status quo.

      There in one person like that in Blackhawks management…McD.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Thanks..nice you stopped by.

  10. kchawk says:

    Al how much do you think Pisani can help the Hawks?

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      If Pisani can stay in the lineup for 70-75 games he should help a great deal.

      Should help PK and PP..He brings a lot of experience.. which is lacking.

  11. steve from chicago says:

    Al it’s hard to believe Pisani had any leverage. Why didn’t the Hawks give him a two way for some flexibility in the event he doesn’t relive his one year magic.

    • Al Cimaglia says:


      You are right above the leverage, but…As we spoke about they needed NHL experience.

      My whispers indicate the Hawks went out to spend $500K and approached some players.

      Pisani hit the bid first.

      He has skill and will be motivated becasue his next stop,if he continues to play, is over seas if he deosn’t rebound next season.

  12. General_Sosabowski says:

    At the risk of stating the obvious, the NHL and the NHLPA have major problems to face in going forward.

    1) The “internationalization” of the player base has created problems in that the players have little common ground these days. Even considering the erosion of the U.S. dollar, the NHL has little real competition for players. Sure, there is the KHL, but I don’t recall ever seeing a KHL team offering multi-million dollar deals to non-Russian players. Please correct me if I am way out of line here.

    2) Overexpansion has also divded the owners of the various teams. It’s pretty obvious that the “haves” and “have-nots” do not share the same interests.

    In the South, we have an old saying: “one monkey don’t stop the show.” I see a major cataclysm ahead, because it isn’t just one or two monkeys anymore.

  13. Al Cimaglia says:


    The issue now is the KHL has become an alternative for many more players.

    Not only the big names that get all the ink.

    The boys that use to make $1-5-$2.0 a year and now are sining for half as much or less in thg NHL…. Those players can make twice as much playing in Europe.

    I mentioned in the blog and will mention again in the

    There is NO financial parity in the NHL.

    I wrote about this while I was at ESPN Chicago…

    Many of the same franchises which lost before the lockout are still losing big money.

    In baseball, the Pirates and other teams can develop talent and trade it all away when the players become too expensive to keep.

    In the NHL….that formula doesn’t work because instead of making $20 mill a year the NHL franchises which are cash strapped lose that much per season.

    If there was a poll of players pleased with the CBA and their Union..I would guess at least 75% would say they aren’t happy.

    • shruew says:

      No sport has financial parity.

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        Last place teams in baseball and football are still profitable…maybe not parity but far closer to a black balance sheet than in NHL.

        Bettman has done everything he can to produce parity in the league…which has a lot to do with the point system.

        Very little has been done to insure franchises against continual losses.

        Go back and look who lost the most before the lockout and which clubs lose money today.

        There is no way to conclude the year lost because of the lockout was worth it to those franchises and also for many players.

        • shruew says:

          That’s a different take on financial parity than I was thinking of. I wouldnt have considered the Yankees on the Pirates to have financial parity just because they both made a profit.

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            I understand where you are coming from my friend. Good news…..

            Due out for the holidays will be the Cimaglia Hockey Dictionary.

            It will be available to long time readers for a special price and will help make my writing more clear.

            For you, it might be available in a special red and white leather bound eddition.

  14. Norm Bailey says:

    What if Niemi is unsigned this coming season.Can the Hawks have an opportunity to sign him next year considering they were his last employer

  15. HawkFanDave says:

    Norm and Al,

    Everyone would have a chance to sign him. He’s an unrestricted free agent.


    That leather bound edition HAS to be red, white, and BLACK leather.

    This is an excellent, thought-provoking, very disturbing piece.

    I feel a helluva lot worse about all of this (impending labor dispute, unrest among and potential exodus of the have-nots, and the ultra-ominous spectre of franchise revolt) than I do about the dismantling and retooling of the third and fourth lines for a run at a repeat….

    sheesh… thanks for the Friday downer… think I’ll go have an early adult beverage…

    • HawkFanDave says:

      okay, okay… it was a Thursday downer… I’m just late to the party, um, I mean funeral…

      • Dave Morris says:

        HFD> Vegas line today on Hawks to win the Cup in 2011 is 7-1…

        Right behind PIT and WSH, each at 6-1. Not bad.


        As General Sosabowski would say, “Na Zdrowie!”

        • HawkFanDave says:

          Dave, I even know how to pronounce that properly!

          I must have been drinking a ton of off-season Kool Aid, but I wasn’t surprised when those odds came out… or SI’s #2 preseason power ranking for our boys, sandwiched between Washington and Pittsburgh… although I really have a love-hate relationship with power rankings. I find flaws with those darn things every time, no matter the sport, yet I’m always checking them.

          Less than a month ’til camp!

          Oh, and I’ll never forget my deep sorrow when the WHA (specifically those Winnipeg Jets) swooped in and stole our beloved Golden Jet!

  16. Al Cimaglia says:

    Thanks Dave for keeping us up on the odds..

    In reality they mean little at this time of the year.

    Not much action is taken on the NHL in the middle of summer.

    The Cup winner and other good, popular teams are usually listed at the lowest odds to start.

    The few that do bet the NHL in mid-summer will probably be more apt to wager on the past Cup winner or other recognizable teams….Hawks, Crosby and AO…the odds reflect such.

  17. Dave Morris says:

    Al>IMO the Vegas line is not a bad barometer to follow as the season goes on…as an objective assessment of teams’ chances. And watching the flucuations in those betting odds, they seem to reflect the injury situations and impact of personnel changes.

    Would you agree?


  18. Al Cimaglia says:

    Yep… and they mean very little in mid-summer.

    • Dave Morris says:

      True Al…then again, mid-summer is a great time to talk about Rudy Pilous and the could-have-beens from the St Catherines TeePees.

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        lol….those boys were great…

        As you know in the mid-60′s they had four 1st team All_Stars..Hall, Mikita, Hull, Pilote and Vasko on the second team.

        Quite a testament as to the talent on that club.

  19. Dave Morris says:

    Probably not news for many Hawks fans, but Chris Kuc and other writers picked up on a report out of Switzerland that has Huet being loaned to the Fribourg team there.

    If so, he would join Sebastien Caron, who pulled on a Hawks jersey for one game twixt the pipes in 06-07.

  20. Living the Cup says:

    I’m checking in while on holidays and love the Pisani move. I think he’ll have a good year and now this really creates competition amongst the lower 4-5 forwards for ice time. Dowell, Skille, Bickell, and whoever else – Taffe, Makarov et al. maybe later Kruger.

    The extra $ in cap space means they can add a decent player at trade deadline. Stanley’s not giving up on repeating!!

  21. Al Cimaglia says:

    Pisani will help a lot if he can stay healthy.

    He is a different player than those you mentioned…

    But there will be a lot motivated young forwards hoping to live in Chicago rather than Rockford for the upcoming season.

  22. hockeynut says:


    Just noticed on tsn.ca that Pirri signed.

    Just asking… is he young enough to go to Junior or will he be in Rockford?

    Have you seen him play or have any thoughts on his potential?

  23. Al Cimaglia says:

    He’s 19 and is Canadian so he could not play in the AHL.

    I haven’t seen him play in a game, and I think he will play at RPI in the fall.

  24. Al Cimaglia says:

    My initial thought is he was drafted out of thge QMJHL and then went to RPI…but not positive.

  25. hockeynut says:

    If he had played in the “Q” he would be ineligible to play in the NCAA.

    Now that he has signed a contract, my understanding is that he is inelgible to play in the NCAA.

    I know that it is not standard for 19 yr olds to play in the “A” but I am not sure what being Canadian has to do with it. There are plenty of Canadians in that league. Are they not eligible until 20 because the can still play in the CHL maybe? They comprise the majority of the rosters I would think.

    He has impressed at the prospect camps of (09-10) from what I heard. Does anyone have any impressions from the camps?

    I am eager to see what some of these young forwards have given the forward depth the Hawks had to let go this year.

  26. Al Cimaglia says:

    If you are a European…not a North American the age
    minimum is different for the AHL…they can play at 18.

    Pirri played in OMJHL….then was drafted and played last season in college, at RPI.

    I believe because he played in college and is over 18 he is eligible to play this season in the AHL.

    When I wrote first comment I forgot about exemption for college kids.

    In my opinion, 18 yr olds, no matter where they are born or played should be eligible to play in the AHL.

    I understand the reason for the rule…but it is a different time and players are coming into the NHL sooner.

    For example, Kyle Beach would have probably been better off if he could have played a full season in Rockford last year.

    IMO the AHL age minimum rule should be changed.

  27. Fork says:

    Pirri never played in the Q, and Saginaw holds his OHL rights. It’s either Chicago or Rockford (or possibly ECHL).

    He’ll join Lalonde, Beach and Leddy in the A. Beach will have to earn his way to Chicago by playing at least a quarter season while keeping out of trouble before the Hawks think about bringing him up. I’ll have a little more on that over the weekend.

    • Al Cimaglia says:


      I see they are bringing Beach around on the publicity circuit…making appearance and what not…all part of growing up and learning.

      All of the signings point to the Hogs being a team to watch as far as the AHL goes.

      I will go when they play at Rosemont.

  28. Numerous company amenities and the 78,000 sq. meter Rosemont Conference Heart are found in Rosemont.

  29. Great post, I really love playing football. So much hours of enjoyment to be had!