Capitals Free Agency, NHL Draft And CBA Talks
By Stephen London
The NHL and the Washington Capitals have important decisions to make during the coming weeks in regards to free agency, the NHL Entry Draft and collective bargaining agreement talks.
General manager George McPhee sent qualifying offers to each of their seven restricted free agents on Friday. On the list of restricted free agents are Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, John Carlson and Mike Green. Perreault, Beagle and Green are all eligible for arbitration to get a deal done.
While trying to manage its free agents, Washington is deep in major preparation for the NHL Draft, which will occur June 22-23. The Capitals have the 11th and 16th overall selections, but have the option of having a second-round pick either this year or the next, which they received when they traded Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche before the 2011-12 season. Not having a second-round pick of their own, the Capitals have the option of either taking the pick -- the 54th overall of the draft -- this season or delaying until next year, when the selection could be higher.
If another team makes a trade offer for one or both of the Capitals' first-round picks, that could influence McPhee's decision about whether to claim this year's or next year's second-round pick. Last year, the Capitals traded their only first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Troy Brouwer.
The Capitals have a league-high 11 picks in this year's NHL Draft, which opens a lot of trade offers on draft day and the days before. There were 18 trades during the first day of last year's draft involving players.
"This year, we like the draft a lot," McPhee said. "We like what we think we can get at [picks No.] 11 and 16."
Overshadowing the draft and free agency is the NHL collective bargaining agreement, which the owners and players have to revise and agree upon before there can be an NHL season in 2012-2013. The last CBA talks in the NHL ended with a full-season lockout in 2004-05.
One of the main issues for CBA talks has to do with the players' contracts. The league and the board of owners may try to limit the number of years that teams can offer and try to adopt the system used in the NFL, in which the teams are allowed to cut a player for reasons in the contract. Currently in the NHL, if a team cuts a player, the team is obligated to buy out his contract.
As the CBA stands right now, the NHL players have 57 percent of the NHL revenues. NHL representatives will likely push to lower that percentage to make it more comparable to the percentage the players get in the NFL or NBA. Both leagues agreed upon CBAs with their respective player associations in 2011, with the NBA players getting 50 percent and the NFL players getting roughly 46-48 percent of their leagues' revenues.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has reported that NHL stadiums were about 96 percent full, on average, during the regular season, and 102 percent during the playoffs. The league revenue was also at a record high of $3.3 billion, Bettman said.
Another point of contention for the CBA is that the former Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Canada, becoming the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets played in the Southeast Division this past season, making the traveling schedule for the Jets and their divisional opponents daunting.
During the middle of the season, the NHL's owners proposed a change to have four conferences and no divisions, but the players didn't accept the deal. The Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning were in a conference with the most northern Eastern Conference teams, making the travel just as bad, if not worse, for the two Florida teams.
Posted June 19, 2012