Category Archives: Hockey

Impact of new NHL CBA on mega length contracts

The upcoming NHL season is about to be held hostage by the NHL owners as they push for some significant concessions from the players. The Collective Bargaining Agreement is up for renewal and the owners have fired the first shot.

The significant asks as I understand them are a reduction in the players share of revenue from 57% to 47%; a 22% rollback in player salaries; a five year maximum contract term; a delay in free agent eligibility and some changes to the salary cap structure.

I obviously have no idea how things will play out over the next few months. The NBA and NFL players associations agreed to a 50% revenue cut. I think that 50% number will have a pretty firm gravitational pull to the negotiations. A drop to 50% would likely bring with it an accompanying roll back in players salaries to fit into the revised, lower salary cap number.

I was thinking of these potential changes on this summer’s free agency proceedings. Did Minnesota offer Ryan Suter and Zach Parise the moon thinking that the ultimate outlay would not be anywhere near what was agreed to? Did Nashville step up and match Philadelphia’s offer sheet to Shea Weber with the hope that the new CBA would reduce the dollars, the term and potentially the signing bonus structure? It would be a dangerous game of poker to play, but it might prove to be a winning hand.

Below, courtesy of capgeek.com, are tables detailing Weber’s deal and the identical deals of Suter and Parise.

My understanding is the signing bonus forms part of the NHL salary and acts as a mechanism to satisfy the 100 percent rule of the recently expired CBA (please comment and correct me if I am incorrect here). The year one non-bonus portion of the contracts is $1 million and $2 million respectively, which makes the $1 million salary in the final years of the contracts kosher.

Below are adjusted tables that simply assume the NHL owners are successful in gaining a 22% rollback in salaries.  For the cap hit, I have shown it three ways: no restriction on contract term; a seven year maximum contract terms; and a five year maximum term.

The math likely works pretty well in terms of revised cap hit over the full contract length under the owners’ first offer.  Weber’s $110 million contract becomes an $85 million deal; still monster cash, but it probably a lot easier for a team to stomach if their share of revenues goes up to 50%.  The Wild still have $152 million tied into two players, with Suter’s ultimate value without Weber as a partner is still to be determined.

The columns with the seven year and five year terms illustrate an issue that will need to be dealt with should the owners be successful in capping contract lengths and that restriction is applied retroactively. The resulting annual cap hits likely won’t fit into the revised maximum salary caps.  Some sort of fancy math is going to be required to make that work.

This annual cap hit issue illustrates just how complicated the CBA negotiations will be. In addition to gaining common ground on the dollars involved, both sides are going to need to agree on all the resulting implications on their salary cap world.

I hate to be a pessimist, but it is going to take a fair while to get both parties in agreement. The owners hold most of the cards, while the players have a real stubborn SOB in Donald Fehr to lead them. Fehr famously led the baseball players association through a lengthy strike without giving in on key negotiating points. It will be interesting to see what points, if any, the players concede to in the next month. The September 15th lockout date is going to hit players and fans before we know it.

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#1 pick- Winger or Centre? – from 2010

Today I will republish a third post from the now defunct Low on Oil site. This sure beats coming up with new ideas; I feel like a modern day Rick Reily.

This post originally followed the Taylor vs. Tyler debate that I posted last Sunday. When reading, try to eliminate the “Ilya Kovalchuk is currently in the Stanley Cup” narrative from your mind. I would quickly counter that the Kings made the dance with three quality centres in Kopitar, Richards and Carter.

And that is gist of the post. If you can draft a centre who is almost as good as a winger, draft that centre.

—original post below— Continue reading

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Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin – from 2010

Below is a second post that I wrote for Low on Oil back during the 2009-2010 hockey season that I will republish on this site. It was a debate on who the Oilers should draft with their first #1 overall pick. I said Tyler, the Oilers went with Taylor.

A couple of years on, the Oilers find themselves with their third straight #1 overall pick. The discussion this year is do the Oilers draft the best player available or a defenseman?

I have read a few compelling articles on draft value that suggest a limited amount of elite talent available each year. Top 5 picks are sacred and really should be spent on the best player available if possible. None of this year’s defensemen available are good enough to select with the #1 overall selection.

Getting back to Taylor vs. Tyler, the post below is a pretty good read and I think it has implications for this year’s draft. I don’t think the question should be Nail Yakupov vs. Ryan Murray. It should be Yakupov vs. Alex Galchenyuk, or Yakupov vs. Mikhail Grigorenko. Should the Oilers pick a winger or a centre?

For this year, the post from 2010 below has my answer for the 2012 #1 pick. If given the choice between a greatly skilled winger and a greatly skilled centre, the Oilers should pick the centre.  From there, I would defer to Corey Pronman over at Hockey Prospectus and take Grigorenko over Galchenyuk.

——the original post below—-  Continue reading

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Living and Slowly Dying in Phoenix- from 2009

I noticed a couple of months ago that the Oilers site that I used to write on, Low on Oil, has been taken down. Fortunately I was able to get into the back end of the site and retrieve some of the posts I wrote back during 2009.

This ole site has suffered from a lack of ambition, a bit of writer’s block and a lack of effort. I would offer up some excuses but they don’t matter. I would suggest the possibility of new entries soon, but I am not sure that is true. I have started a couple of things the past month that aren’t good.

I find it interesting that as I read more and more great sports writing, I seem to have lost my voice. I like writing posts with a statisitical slant, but find my old theories have been largely replaced by better theories put forward by others. It has been great from a learning perspective, but leaves me a bit dry on the original ideas front.

Anyways, I thought I would throw up a few of the posts that I liked from the Low on Oil days. This first one details my trip down to Phoenix to watch the Coyotes and Cardinals. Most of what I wrote holds true today. The deep playoff run this year doesn’t change the fact that the Phoenix area cannot sustain a NHL team. Perhaps some can admire Gary Bettman’s determined effort to keep the team from moving, but it is an exercise in delusion. Any owner dumb enough to keep the team in Phoenix better have a couple hundred million dollars they are willing to throw away.

———— Continue reading

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VUKOTA Fantasy Spreadsheet Review

The other day, I wrote a mostly positive review of Hockey Prospectus’ 2011-2012 book. I also recently spent $4.95 to pick up their VUKOTA spreadsheet to “dominate my hockey fantasy league”.

For the VUKOTA spreadsheet, I wasn’t expecting a spreadsheet as comprehensive and flexible as Football Outsiders KUBIAK (which costs $20), but I did expect enough statistical detail to allow me to manipulate it to my league’s rules.

In short, the good news is that the spreadsheet only costs $4.95. It is hard to call spending $4.95 a waste of money. I prefer to think of it as a donation of encouragement to the Hockey Prospectus team.

The website suggests that the purchaser will dominate their league thanks to the VUKOTA rankings. In reality, the spreadsheet only shows three of the six typical offensive categories (goals, assists and penalty minutes) and only one of the four typical goalie categories (save percentage). Missing was any type of instructions on how the creator of the spreadsheet envisioned it being used for fantasy purposes.

To be of substantial value, the spreadsheet needs to project shots, shot percentage and total power-play points. It also needs to take a stab at projecting goalie wins, shutouts and goals against average. If I am going to be greedy, it should list hits, blocked shots and short-handed points. 

While I understand that VUKOTA may not track these variables, it must list them if it is going to be sold as a fantasy drafting solution. A short term solution would be to add columns and simply list last year’s stats for those categories that aren’t projected for 2011-2012.

For me, the spreadsheet was of little to no value. Instead, I opened up a spreadsheet, went to NHL.com, grabbed last year’s stats by position and then sorted by shots taken. Although I didn’t really understand Corsi until I read the Hockey Prospectus book, I did understand that the key to scoring is shot volume.

From baseball, I knew that players peak around age 27 and surmised that is was more like age 23 or 24 for hockey. For fantasy purposes, I focus on shots and player age, and make sure I have some coverage across the stat categories. If your league is like mine, there will only be a couple of other teams thinking in similar terms which makes for a pretty easy draft.

With the season starting tonight, it is probably too late to pick up the spreadsheet for this year. My advice for next year is to ensure their spreadsheet has enough detail to help you win your league before you pull out your credit card.

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Hockey Prospectus 2011-2012 Review

The folks over at Hockey Prospectus (formerly Puck Prospectus) recently published their second annual season preview. I picked up the pdf version for $9.90; it can also be purchased in old fashioned book form for $19.95 (Cdn$20.95).

To assist you in digesting my review, a bit about my background as it relates to advanced hockey stats and my knowledge of Hockey Prospectus.  Continue reading

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Naming Winnipeg’s NHL Team

My congratulations go out to Winnipeg Jets fans, who yesterday received news that the NHL was coming back to town after 15 years.  While they aren’t getting back their Jets, who still somehow reside in Glendale, they are back in the game. 

What the heck is this new team going to be called?  My sense is that the overwhelming public sentiment is that they be called the Winnipeg Jets.   Other names I have come across are the Manitoba Jets, Manitoba/Winnipeg Moose, Manitoba/Winnipeg Falcons and Manitoba/ Winnipeg Thrashers.  The Moose is Winnipeg’s currently American Hockey League franchise name, while the Falcons were an amateur team in Winnipeg that represented Canada in the 1920 Olympics and the first ice hockey gold medal awarded.  The Thrashers would represent maintaining the team’s name from Atlanta.  Calling the team the Thrashers would shock me. Continue reading

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