Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can We Cap the Cap?

The Florida Panthers are the NHL definition of futility. One playoff win since they made the Cup Finals in 1996, and they have set an NHL record for consecutive seasons out of the playoffs. But what happened on Friday may change everything for them. They went on a signing spree, signing everyone from Jose Theodore to Sean Bergenheim in a matter of hours, not to mention the 3 former Blackhawks they acquired via trades. The dueling opinions on these moves are split on country lines, oddly enough. U.S observers think that these moves are great for a franchise that needed to do something to get out of the doldrums, while Canadian observers think these moves are all for nothing and the team will continue to be just as bad as they have been. Why? The reason I have been inferring is the amount of money the Panthers spent, $28.5 million to be exact. All because they had to meet the salary cap floor at $48.3 million. The Panthers will never ever spend up to that unless they have to, but this year, they had to. I now wonder, and maybe other NHL observers are too: Can we cap the salary cap?

The good thing about the cap being at where it is shows the health of the league. Teams can now spend the money they have well earned in a good and fruitful marketplace. The bad thing about the cap being at $64.3 million, is that we have nowhere to go but down, and that could take a team like the Panthers with it. But, this is what the NHL set forth and everyone agreed to it. EVERYONE. So why single out a team like Florida for doing something they had to do, because the league mandates it? Are we rebelling against a league being healthy and prosperous?

The NHL CBA is up for renewal after this season, and the major sticking point many owners will point to is the height of the cap. How do we prevent it from going so high, in a league with so many teams who don't make enough money to spend to the cap floor?  The simple answer is... well there is no simple answer. How can you get a team out of the doldrums to make enough money to spend to the cap floor because the overall league has not been this healthy in years? Again... there is no simple answer.

The salary cap is this high because the league is coming off a successful postseason, a brand new lucrative American TV deal, and the casual fan pool is increasing. So, by logic, if the naysayers of spending want the league to go back into their immediate post-lockout shell of staving off irrelevance in the U.S, then wish for a lockout come next summer. But, to criticize a team for doing what they have to do because the league is healthy just makes no sense.

I know that many of you will probably say the reason for this outlash towards the Panthers is that they are the Florida Panthers, and they should stay bad. But would there be a similar outlash towards a team like the Maple Leafs spending the same amount of cash that the Panthers did? No. Fans of every team and observers of this great game alike need to understand that criticizing a team like Florida for doing what they did just doesn't make sense in the context of today's NHL.

The NHL has not been as healthy as it has been now in years, so why is the spending spree such a big deal in a bad way? It shouldn't. We will in all likelihood, never see something like this in the NHL for a long time coming, and that may be a good thing for everyone. But right now, overpaying players is what you have to do to reach the floor. There is no choice. All of the many teams below the floor at this point have to do the same thing, and whining about it won't make the situation any better.

So... can we cap the cap? Yes. How can we do that? There is no clear answer right now, but we need to understand that where the league is right now, with its health and the strength of the Canadian Dollar, can allow things like what has happened with the cap to happen. It's a culture change for both the NHL and the Panthers, and change is something that will happen with things like this... it's just the way that the world is.

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