NHL’s Parity Problem & Contract Exemptions

Tim asks.

Regarding the salary cap stagnation that we have seen. I fully understand the theory of creating parity within the league…smaller market teams can’t compete if the larger market teams wave millions and millions of dollars at every top quality free agent there is BUT, the whole premise needs to looked at once again. Far too many teams are either losing home grown players or far overpaying to keep them. Would you agree that there needs to be exemptions to the cap when it comes to resigning players that a team drafted…similar to the NBA exemption rule?

I do not think there needs to be an exemption. Strong emphasis on the word needs. I would entertain the idea and could even agree to a proposal, but I don’t think not having an exemption hurts the NHL.

A little bit of context behind my decision is the fact I enjoy how tight the NHL cap is. I get annoyed with other sports, were money can be thrown around and bad decisions have less consequence. I enjoy the complexities that come with making educated guesses on players and trying to build a great roster while also becoming cap compliant.

I also think that parity in the NHL wouldn’t be as strong with some changes to the game. Looking at some rosters, it’s extremely evident some teams are far and away better than others, but the game is played in such a low event style that luck and not skill has to big of input on wins. With a low scoring game that results in the luck of the bounce one goal wins, it’s easy to assume all teams are closely related.

To illustrate this, imagine team A scoring 2 goals every 30 minutes vs team B that scores 1 goal every 30 minutes.

If they played a 30 minute game, team A wins 2-1.
If they play a 60 minute game, team A wins 4-2
If they play a 120 minute game, team A wins 8-4

Team A is far and away better than team B, but with a lower event game comes fake parity.

The NBA vs NHL parity debate has always annoyed me because both are at the extremes. The NHL needs to find ways in which better teams win and the game result isn’t so reliant on luck. The NBA needs to increase parity as why watch anything but the Warriors vs Cavs in the finals. The NHL is a shitshow and the NBA is predetermined. Neither is optimal.

To fix parity in the NHL, they need to make it a higher event game. Bigger nets, smaller goalie padding, less obstruction, and basically anything to increase scoring.

But back to the exemption. I usually see this from Blackhawks fans as they envision having all their favorite players from past cup teams. Dustin Byfuglien, Brandon Saad, Teuvo Teravainen are some players who would have never had to leave the team.

Guys like Nick Leddy, Michael Frolik, and Andrew Ladd weren’t drafted by Chicago and would be ineligible. But that doesn’t matter as a Blackhawks fans still dreams of Byfuglien still in red.

The thing is, if there was an exemption, that doesn’t mean everything would play out perfectly. The Blackhawks could have easily used the exemption on Dave Bolland and/or Troy Brouwer. Now imagine how a Blackhawks fan views the exemption if the Bolland and Brouwer exemption contracts means the team still wasn’t able to re-sign Saad or someone else. It’s easy to look at an exemption rule, envision how it would look with hindsight if the Blackhawks utilized it perfectly, and say; “yeah, that would be great”. I’m not implying you, the question asker, but instead fans in general in all these hypotheticals. There is a scenario were the Blackhawks are a worse team currently because of an exemption rule.

But again, I would listen if there was a proposal were teams could extend 5% beyond the cap to re-sign RFA’s they drafted to a 1-year deal or at least a deal that didn’t soak up any UFA years.

1 Comment

  1. The NHL does have clearly better teams, and those teams always rise to the top and win the Stanley Cup. You don’t see ‘lucky’ teams get the job done when the chips are down. That’s why only Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles are the only four teams to win the Cup since 2009.

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