The NHL officially locked out its players at midnight on Saturday, September 15th. One of the reasons for the lockout, as made clear by commissioner Gary Bettman, is that players salaries are too exorbitant and the league needs a larger share of the overall revenue to deal with rising operating costs. However, across the league, the notion of fiscal responsibility went out the window as the lockout approached, teams knowing that players cannot be signed during the lockout. In the 48 hours prior to the start of the lockout, NHL teams negotiated $200 million worth of contracts and extensions.
This frantic rash of signings shows the incredible absurdity of the lockout: From the players side, those receiving new contracts are surely grateful for the multi-year, multi-million dollar extensions they have just been handed by their employers. Now they must get back in rank with the rest of the NHLPA and continue their labor struggle against the very people they were negotiating with for their own benefit the day prior. From the owners, they bemoan the rising costs of player salaries, but continue to drive them up through CBA-exploiting contracts and massive raises for younger and younger players. They signed players to new contracts on Friday and will probably seek to roll back the amount of those contracts when negotiations resume later today.
Of all the signings, the most interesting was the Phoenix Coyotes, who are still officially owned by the NHL itself, signed their captain Shane Doan to a four year, $21.2 million contract. The Coyotes are the picture of what ails the NHL. They receive millions in taxpayer subsidies to underwrite their losses, which amount to tens of millions of dollars annually. That Phoenix, of all teams, was signing players in their precarious financial state speaks to the warped reality that the NHL and NHLPA are operating in.
Last Thursday, Gary Bettman said that the owners' last offer would be pulled from the table if they had to lockout the league, and that future offers might be even less agreeable to the NHLPA. The two sides are set to resume talks today regarding how to divide up the $3.3 billion the game makes annually between the players and owners.
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