SBD/Issue 112/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Economy No. 1 Topic At Meeting Between NHLPA, Player Agents

Kelly Says Shrinking Salary Cap Means Trouble,
But Interest Of Players Never Been Higher
The state of the economy "was the No. 1 topic" Thursday at the annual meeting between NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly and player agents in Toronto, according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. The group "discussed how the recession will affect NHL revenue, from this year's free-agent market to the pension plan to the salary cap in the 2010-11 season, which is expected to dip significantly" from $56.7M this season. Kelly's message was that a "shrinking salary cap means trouble," and "all concerned have to consider ways to deal with it." Kelly: "If there is a positive from this whole escrow situation it is the fact it got the players' attention. When you are taking 20[%] of their pay and putting it someplace else, it gets their attention. ... The interest of the players has never been higher and that is a good thing" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/27). CAA Sports agent J.P. Barry said, "There was a lot of time spent on where the economy is and how the economy will affect escrow and the (salary) cap. It was a cautious message: 'We don't know what's going to happen, but if certain things happen, this is where it could go.'" The CP's Chris Johnston writes even with a "poor economy, many agents remain optimistic they'll be able to get their big clients signed to lucrative deals when free agency opens July 1." Barry noted the market for unrestricted free agents "and the general economy have never really been in sync" (CP, 2/27).

UNION FOCUSING ON NEXT SEASON: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote, "Obviously everyone's concern is the cap for the 2010-11 season, when diminishing revenues as the recession really hits at all levels will likely bring down the cap." But Kelly said that he and the agents "focused more on next season because anything past that is like trying 'to predict the weather.'" One concern both the union and agents shared was the "potential for NHL teams to bury some players in the minor leagues over the next few years in order to alleviate cap issues." Neither the union nor player agents "like that idea at all," but there is "nothing in the CBA that prohibits it unless the player in question has a no-movement clause." Newport Sports agent Pat Morris said, "The NHLPA is very organized. Its staff has grown in leaps and bounds over the last year and that can only lead to productive things for the players and the game. They're certainly more inclusive of our role, they know what we can do and how we can help. That's a good partnership going forward" (ESPN.com, 2/26).

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