CBA optimism, and are the Leafs well-positioned?

Cam Charron
October 22 2012 12:45PM

Let's talk conspiracy theory here. Or let's talk luck, or let's talk about my theory that Brian Burke is one of the few General Managers in hockey who acts with the future interests of the team in mind and not his own.

At the end of Pierre Gauthier's run in Montreal, he left the team with Rene Bourque and Tomas Kaberle, players on longer deals than the ones he traded. I don't know where Burke stands with MLSE, but with a change of ownership and NO PLAYOFFS IN X YEARS, I really do think it would be naive of us to think that Burke won't be carefully analyzed by his superiors going into this season.

Any move, any move, to get this team back into the playoffs, mortgaging the slim future of the Leafs for a better shot. I have no doubts that trading Jake Gardiner for Roberto Luongo would help the Leafs for the next couple of years. That would guarantee Burke a couple more years in Toronto at least. The problem is whether Gardiner and the first he's packaged with, may come out to generate more value in the end than the goaltender himself and harming the Leafs for the future. I do think Burke worries more about the team's future than his own, a desirable trait in a GM.

I share the optimism of guys like draglikepulllike 67sound (here's a review of his proposal from Eric T.) and like mc79hockey. The NHL is coming back soon, and the sides are much, much closer than they're letting on. At one point, the two sides were a little over a billion dollars apart over a five-year period, but a month later if you assume the NHL keeps the same growth rate of 7.1%, they're $268M apart. Even if the NHL grows at just 5% over a six-year period, which is the absolute worst case scenario for the league, the sides are $2.71M per year, per team, according to mc79:

The Maple Leafs have engaged in a little front office bloat since the lockout too, another example: Brian Burke is making huge money, they have Dave Nonis working for them, Rick Dudley was wandering around for a while, Dave Poulin, Cliff Fletcher as a special advisor, Steve Staios just got hired as a player development advisor…there seem to be awful lot of dudes in the Leafs’ front office and I haven’t even mentioned the guy who reads all the stat papers that get sent to Brian Burke and assures him that they’re useless.

Not like the Leafs' front-office is going to shrink anytime soon, but cancelling a season out of principle to save 30 billionaires $2.71M is a lot like using an elephant gun to extinguish a birthday candle.

But here's the point: the Leafs' current salary against the cap is not too far from the midpoint of the Players' and league's latest proposals. Whether that was by design, or by luck, I think Burke's caution in the last two summers really protected the Leafs' skin coming out of this lockout, especially if there are changes to contract rules:

NHL-desired cap PA-desired cap NHL-PA midpoint Leafs' salary cap Leafs' salary owed
$58,960,000.00 $64,350,000.00 $61,655,000.00 $63,485,833.00 $58,785,000.00

That's from Capgeek, and mc79 crunching the numbers.

Meanwhile, Eric T, in the post linked above, has a good chart at NHLNumbers that shows the Leafs at the top of the league in spending if the NHL went down to 50/50:

The only deal the Leafs have on the books past five years is James van Riemsdyk's, a deal that only pays him through his prime until he's 28. If the league is serious on coming down against teams who signed players to long deals, then the onus should fall on Philadelphia and not Toronto, who merely traded for the contract back on draft day.

The principles of the new collective bargaining agreement seem to be simple enough: The sides have agreed on a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, it's just how much money the players are owed in the first couple of years that seems to be the sticking point. The amount the players are owed versus what the NHL wants to pay is less than a percent, or a little under 50K per player with an NHL contract.

When the NHL comes back, I think the Leafs are pretty well-positioned. They won't have to shed too many salary cap dollars, and have a lot of contracts coming off the books at the end of this season. If new contract rules fit Brian Burke's personal philosophy as the NHL desires, there isn't too much stopping him from taking a run at Corey Perry or Stephen Weiss if their current teams can't afford to pay them even with expanded revenue sharing.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 They're $hittie
October 22 2012, 04:30PM
Trash it!
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Nope, Burkes ego has hurt this team more than not trading Gardiner has helped.

He tries to make himself like high and mighty by not signing RFAs or pursuing big free agents.

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#2 Ben
October 23 2012, 10:45AM
Trash it!
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'Burke's ego has hurt this team more than not trading Gardiner has helped'

Generic, arbitrary statements like these are my favourites! Dustin Penner is the only offer sheet that's gone through since 1997 so the viability of that strategy is pretty much dead.

And those big name free agents? When 30 teams can pursue marquee players without restriction its inevitable that they end up with either huge cap hits, ridiculous contract lengths or both. In a salary cap world, aggression in the UFA market does not exactly provide sustainable, long term success.

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