Let’s all blame the NHL’s salary cap!

HockeyIndependent, I am frustrated. Like Brian Burke trying to get a decent return for a mediocre Tomas Kaberle frustrated. Why? The NHL’s salary cap.

Before you fling your arms forward in a somewhat awkward way of agreeing with me (I’m not the only one who does this, right?), know that my cap frustration probably differs from yours a little. For the record, I actually like the NHL having a salary cap.

My beef has more to do with those in the media (and fans to a lesser extent) who blame the salary cap (and only the salary cap) for Chicago losing nearly a third of their roster this summer.

Like most of you, I shutter when TSN – a fine sports network – gives Dave Hodge an opportunity to voice a hockey opinion. I find Hodge’s stance on the salary cap half-baked to say the least. I’m paraphrasing here, but during TSN’s Free Agent Frenzy coverage on Thursday, Hodge basically gave his condolences to Hawks fans  saying “… the salary cap really screwed you, Hawks fans.”


That made me hit my boiling point on the matter. It’s not the cap’s fault several key RFAs – Kris Versteeg, Cam Barker, Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer and others – weren’t qualified on time last summer. Do you think Versteeg would have gotten $3 Million per season if qualified properly? It’s also not fair to blame the cap for Dale Tallon signing Dustin Byfuglien to a pretty rich $3 Million per year contract early on in his career. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge supporter of Tallon’s. But to blame the Hawks financial situation (and subsequent trades) on the cap isn’t entirely accurate.

The salary cap shouldn’t be the sole focus within the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Another important element in the CBA is the Entry Draft and lottery pick rules that were established some time ago. In 2007, Chicago were fortunate enough to move from the Draft’s 5th overall pick to 1st overall thanks to that lottery. I’m not sure but I think that 1st overall pick played a significant role in the Hawks Stanley Cup win last month.

For as much as the CBA/salary cap has hurt Chicago, it’s helped them too. I don’t see how Hodge and others can blame the salary cap for the Hawks “demise” (let’s face it, they’re still a strong team) without making so much as an acknowledgement of how and what has gotten Chicago out of the NHL’s basement. The same thing goes for Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Washington and others.

Unfortunately Hodge and many others in the media forget to mention this. Luckily most hockey fans are smarter than that. If you still blame the salary cap for some of Chicago’s transactions, you obviously haven’t been paying attention. I for one don’t blame the salary cap for some of the Hawks recent transactions.

Stay classy, NHL salary cap.

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About the Author: Kevin Burgundy runs and operates Stayclassy.net - The internet's best damn hockey blog... with a hint of Burgundy. SC is the smartest and sharpest hockey blog you'll read today (in the next 3 minutes). Go read it today and have a laugh! Email: burgundy@stayclassy.net Twitter: @Stay_Classy Site: http://www.stayclassy.net

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BDGallof. BDGallof said: Stayclassy on HockeyIndependent.com: Don't blame the salary cap for CHI's problems w/o looking at how it's helped them http://bit.ly/aVr5jn [...]

  2. Andrew says:

    The problem here is that without a salary cap, Chicago wouldn’t have to worry about overpaying on the QO fiasco. If there’s one team that’s doing well enough right now to pay players like the Yankees, its the Hawks. Without a cap, the team would likely still look the same (for the most part) regardless of how much they’re paying the players. Also, to say that blaming the salary cap is wrong because the draft lottery helped the Hawks is completely off base and asinine.

  3. David L. says:

    This is the single most inconsistent, worst-reasoned argument ever published at the Hockey Independent.

    As the previous poster commented, Chicago is one of the wealthiest teams in the NHL. If not for the salary cap, they would have simply paid most of these salaries. No doubt, a few of their players were destined to leave, such as Eager and Madden, but the vast majority of the players would have been back. The late qualifying offers were irrelevant without a cap; Chicago could afford to eat that mistake. The same argument holds true for the Huet contract.

    There is no logical or causal connection between the salary cap situation and the draft lottery. Yes, Chicago benefitted from the draft. Several other teams who have drafted high in recent years have not, because their GMs are incompetent at evaluating talent.

    What does this have to do with the salary cap? If not for the cap, other wealthy teams like the Leafs and Rangers would be competitive, despite mismanagement at the highest levels. They could just go out and buy a team of proven FAs.

    A team built through the draft costs less in the short to medium run. Yes, eventually top talent commands top dollars, but this has not been the Hawks’ problem thus far. The root of the problem was overpaying for FAs back when the team was not competitive and had to “sell” itself to potential FAs. There’s no correlation between the fact that the team benefitted from the draft lottery and its current salary cap situation.

  4. [...] they have a Stanley Cup to their credit and the Hawks core is still intact, for the most part. This article by Kevin Burgundy illustrates the point pretty [...]

  5. dan says:

    Please Hawk fans. You think you are the only “rich” team? That was the problem before, all the rich teams outspending the weaker ones. Do you think it is fair for ..say the Leafs or Canucks ( both richer than the Hawks in the recent past…get over it ) would spend and spend, taking away some of your young players?

    Of course not. The new system is going to reward teams that spend wisely, and keep their young players….again…what’s the problem?

    We have parity. Its a good thing. Need we remind you arrogant folk that your team sucked under the old system, with all these $$$ to spend? It can’t all be placed on Dollar Bill.

    The truth is, this writer is 100% right. Your team would not have problems if they could have read a calendar last year.

    They benefited from the CBC to get a #1 overall when they should have had the 5th.

    Quit being sore winners.

    • David L. says:

      Is Chicago the only “rich” team?

      Let’s look at a few basic facts:

      1. The Wirtz family has the majority ownership of the United Center. (Bulls’ owner Reinsdorf has the rest.) The United Center holds over 22,000 with SRO tickets.

      2. The primary alcoholic beverage distributor in Illinois just happens to be Wirtz Beverage Group – Illinois. They are able to “double dip” on concessions, even when the Hawks aren’t playing.

      3. The Hawks’ local t.v. deal was negotiated in 2007-2008 dollars. The Hawks were one of the wealthiest franchises WITHOUT a t.v. deal.

      The Blackhawks aren’t the ONLY rich ream, but they are obviously on par with the Leafs and Rangers, who enjoy similar vertical monopolies.

      The truth is the author isn’t “100% right.” The deadline fiasco has nothing to do with Huet’s contract, just for example.

      Chicago fans aren’t “sore winners,” but we are sick of all of the “sore losers.” After decades of printing money, the Wirtz family finally broke out the checkbook, and the result was the Cup. Sounds like a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The simple truth is that the team could easily afford a $63 million payroll.

      I agree that blaming the salary cap is a fairly bush league move in light of the team’s history. I don’t agree that there is any logical connection between the cap and the draft in this case. It’s a logical fallacy. It’s like saying: “Sure Carbon 14 is bad, but look at all of the benefits of x-rays!” There’s no causal connection.

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