From My Mom's Basement will be a weekly to semi-weekly column exploring an issue burning the minds of fans across the NHL. It may or may not be Wild related, but it will likely contain strong opinion and more than one man's fair share of dripping, bitter sarcasm. Clearly, a blogger can only get away with such bitterness from their mother's basement, right? We hope you enjoy it.
Two days ago, the New York Rangers placed veteran defenseman Wade Redden on waivers. Clearly this was a move to bury him, and his $6.5 million contract in the minors, or somewhere in Europe, or in meat grinder somewhere. (As of this writing, he has been assigned to Hartford of the AHL.) While it remains the right of any NHL team to waive any player they so choose, and to demote them should they clear waivers, the implications here are far reaching, and could be dangerous to the health of the league.
Make the jump and we'll explore the Redden move from the litter box aroma filled confines of my mom's basement.
While some would have you believe that this type of move is going to lead to some kind of CBA Armageddon, the chances of that are slim. You see, this type of move works for both sides, despite the fact that it makes the economic climate of the league fundamentally broken.
From the Owners' Perspective:
The owners share evenly the amount of "I'm getting screwed here" as the players do. The Rangers are part of a multi-billion dollar corporation, meaning they likely can handle eating the $6.5 million for Redden rather easily, but the small market teams cannot. If Craig Leipold wants to bury a contract, he's going to feel it. No matter who has to pay it, the salary affects the profitability of the team, and thus effects all of the owners via revenue sharing. While winning is always the ultimate goal, and freeing up $6.5 million in cap space could certainly give the Rangers some room to breathe and make a move or two to improve the team, the owner is still on the hook for the original money, plus that of the players to be hired with the new cap space.
As we all learned from the Dan Ellis disaster, no one cares about millionaires and their money problems, let alone the money problems of the billionaire owners. However, the fact is that the owner is getting screwed with their pants on, yet they don't seem to care.
From the Individual Player's Perspective:
The player being waived is on both sides of this debate. He bears some responsibility for not living up to the contract, but on the flip side, he now gets to be highly paid to play in a minor league system. It's like being the manager of a store and getting paid to cashier. No one really wants to do it, but the pay is still pretty good.
The player, his agent, the GM, and the owner all agreed to the contract, and all of the stipulations involved. No one goes into the process blind, but it still has to suck for a professional athlete, who could likely play at an NHL level (with planes and high quality buildings, and trainers, and...), to be sent to the AHL (with buses, and small buildings, and trainers that use boat motors to run the whirlpool, and...).
Players work their entire lives to get to the NHL. They work hard to earn a big payday, and the team agreed to pay it, making everyone happy. Then, the team simply decides it is too much money and sends you packing for a minor league squad you worked your tail off to get off of. There is something fundamentally wrong with that.
From the NHLPA's Perspective:
The NHLPA seems hell bent on hosing the members of the union at the expense of the highest paid members. Fighting for cap circumventing contracts, contracts that increase the escrow amount paid by the lowest paid members of the union. These increases are much harder on the lowest paid members of a union, as I have explained before. While these guys are still going to make more than I likely ever will, they paid the same dues as the high-buck guys and should deserve the same protections.
Ask a player making league minimum how he feels about paying an extra 1-2% in escrow so Kovalchuk can get his payday.
Still, the PA likely sees this type of move as just fine. I mean, Redden is still getting his $6.5 million, and the Rangers have to call up or sign someone else, creating a new dues paying position for the PA. It's all good, right?
From the Fans' Perspective:
Ah, the fans. The people everyone from the players, to the league, to the owners and GMs all like to butter up with messages of how much they are appreciated. The fans pay every dollar of salary for every one of these guys, and yet somehow, the fans are always the first ones to lose in any battle.
In a situation like this, how to the fans lose? Easy. They have to endure the inevitable ticket price increase that comes with burying $6.5 million in the AHL where there is absolutely no return on investment. Ranger fans are likely ecstatic that Redden's hit is off the books. However, what about the fans on Long Island? Or in Phoenix? Maybe someone's favorite team could use Wade Redden, but because Glen Sather continues to sign mind bogglingly stupid contracts, fans across the NHL are deprived of being able to watch an NHL level talent do what he has trained all his life to do.
Oh... and if this does turn out to be a sticking point in any future CBA negotiations, the fans lose there, too.
From the GM's Perspective:
Look, I get it. You are the GM of a major sports franchise. Your first priority is to win, and this type of move increases the chances of doing so. It is allowed by the CBA, it helps your team, and you have yet to technically do anything wrong.
Problem is? That is the same argument big corporations use just before they layoff 75% of the employees, or hike prices through the roof on health care that everyone needs. It's wrong, flat out wrong, even if it isn't against the rules. It just shouldn't be done.
GM's have no buy in to doing the right thing. Players will continue to jump at large contracts, even if it is with Sather. $6.5 million is a lot of money to walk away from. The owners are going to (inexplicably) trust the GMs to do their jobs, and give them the freedom to make such decisions. The GM is left with almost full control of the franchise, and the owners seem content to sit on the sidelines and watch as the GMs drive off a cliff for the second time.
Where Does This Leave Us?
Moves like burying Wade Redden and Christobal Huet in the minors, or getting a European squad to "borrow" a player is patently wrong. While it will not likely lead to a huge conflict in the CBA, it should be eliminated. Whether that means a no movement clause for any player with a certain number of seasons played, or if it means that only a certain percentage of the salary can be removed from the cap is up to the powers that be. However, something needs to happen, because despite the fact that owners, GMs, and players all seem to be OK with this, it is ultimately self-destructive.
At least, that's the view from the basement window.