Reduction In NHL Salary Cap Lets Fewer Teams Take Action During Free Agency
The NHL's reduction in the salary cap from $70.2M to $64.3M "won by the league via the owners' third lockout served its purpose" during free agency, according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. Teams "with money didn’t have the space, while the teams with space aren’t the ones who traditionally spend big money." Thus, despite "eye-popping cumulative numbers -- incorrectly interpreted as a sign nothing had changed and the lockout was meaningless -- the market became stagnant very quickly." The NHL "not only is a younger man’s league, it is a league in which teams are loading up with as many younger men’s contracts as possible -- even more so this season with the availability of the Entry Level bonus cushion." It is just past the middle of July and "nearly half the league is squeezed." It is "bargain-hunting time, if teams are hunting at all" (N.Y. POST, 7/21). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the free agency "jamboree always cools down after the first few days, but this year it has been particularly dull after the first flurry of signings beginning July 5." Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said, "Very quiet. And I think that’s to be expected. The cap is coming down this year and a lot of clubs already have their roster in place and payrolls set. I don’t think you’re going to see much more, at least in the short term. Maybe things will pick up late in the summer as camps are about to open" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/21).
DALY NOT SURPRISED BY SPENDING: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen notes NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly indicated that he "was not surprised by the level of spending so far in free agency and did not think a lull of signings last week was unusual." Daly in an e-mail wrote, "Market always slows considerably after the first few days. I haven't noticed any difference with this year's activity." Sportsnet's Brian Lawton, a former NHL agent and GM, said that the market "seemed much the same as it has been for years in the first few days, but the slowdown is different, which he attributes to teams' lack of cap space." Octagon Hockey Dir Allan Walsh said, "We had an initial frenzy of signings on the first day, like we have seen in years past, but the market calmed down much faster than in previous years. Several GMs told me on the second or third day of free agency that they would not be filling out their rosters until August." Mullen notes others said that it was "too early to make any meaningful judgement about the marketplace." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said, "You may be able to make some assessment down the road, but not this early" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/22 issue).