NHL Hockey resumes soon! WILD news, CBA notes and VEGAS odds

Marc Elliott

Former USA Hockey and NHL star Bill  Guerin is in line to be the new WILD GM
Former USA Hockey and NHL star Bill Guerin is in line to be the new WILD GM

SPIRIT LAKE… Believe it or not friends, even though there usually isn’t much going on in the hockey world in most Augusts, there is much business afoot with our Minnesota Wild and in a scant two weeks from this edition of The Reader hitting the stands NHL Rookie Camps will begin and one week following that full scale NHL Training Camps commence. The Traverse City Prospects Tourney will run from Friday September 6th through Tuesday the 10th. Eight clubs will be at the event including the Wild, Red Wings, Blues, Blackhawks, Columbus, NY Rangers, the Stars and a new participant in the Toronto Maple Leaf’s who will be taking the place of the Hurricanes. Before that event kicks off though the Wild are still hot on the trail of a new GM for the team. 

Word has it that the list is down to five names at this point, NJ Devils Asst. Tom Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Asst. Bill Guerin, former Flyers GM Ron Hextall, Montreal Asst. Scott Mellanby and a long shot candidate, former Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli. There was some chatter about former Leaf front office employee Mark Hunter, but I think that has mostly dissipated. Of this list it appears that Guerin is the one with a one or two length lead going into the stretch, but it is hard to read Wild owner Craig Leipold on these matters at times. With a rather short roster operating the team’s front office at this moment, Leo, Wild President Matt Majka, and new hire and former Minnesota NorthStar and Dallas Star player Mike Modano are the ones the most involved in the process. I would have to think that Modano is pushing hard to bring former Stars teammate Guerin on-board, but is also likely to try to make it look like no personal bias or affinity for Guerin is involved in the process. I mean, this club is in such a mess at the moment that even with camp a short timeframe away, all due diligence must be performed. After the Paul Fenton mess, this next hire is critical. 

I’d be the most comfortable with Guerin or Fitzgerald. Both have solid reputations around the league in their current roles and I believe either would perform well. Guerin has been in the better organization in his recent past, and working alongside of longtime NHL GM Jimmy Rutherford has had to be akin to getting a Master’s degree in being a GM. Would Leo trust Modano’s judgement on this if he is pushing hard for Guerin? My thoughts are that he has been in the professional sports business for several years now, but at the end of the day he isn’t a dyed in the wool “hockey guy”. It wasn’t his upbringing or background. With that said I believe he places a lot of faith into the thoughts and opinions of others when in these situations. For me, I like Billy Guerin to get this. I just feel that he is ready to roll and would be a good fit here. He is a down to earth, honest to goodness hockey guy who has experienced it all. Get this done Leo…
THERE IS A SILENT deadline ticking away in the league these days and that is the date by which the league or the NHLPA can opt out of the current CBA. The league can signal their intention to opt out on September 1st of this year and the Players Association can do so on the 19th. No matter which party might “tap out”, this upcoming season would be played and at its conclusion the CBA would then expire and a new one to replace it would have to be negotiated and ratified prior to the 2020-21 season commencing. The thousand-pound gorilla in the room of course is the escrow payments the players make directly from their salaries. This past season escrow payments had a final average of around 9.5%. So basically, out of every million dollars a player received in compensation, $95k went into the escrow account. These funds are set aside to ensure that the 50-50 split in revenues between the league and the players is achieved. If too much escrow has been withheld the overage gets distributed back to the players.

This has been a bone of contention with the players since its inception in January of 2013 when the current CBA was agreed upon. And in a sort of self-inflicted damage, if the players want the escrow payments to remain low, they must also go along with a lower salary cap. As the cap goes up, so do the escrow payments. For instance, for the upcoming season the players have the right to kick in up to a 5% cap escalator clause to give the teams the ability to spend more on player salaries. In the previous two seasons the escalator was placed at 1.5%. For the upcoming year the players wanted it held at a figure representing $1.5mil less on the cap then the owners did. ($81.5mil versus $83mil) This setup favors players with contracts and harms players looking for contracts. But I have witnessed this phenom within union settlements in the past, in other businesses and in sports. If most of the union members get what they want out of a negotiation, but a minority experiences a negative effect, the majority will win out, especially if the other party is pushing a “this is our final offer” scenario. With few execs, players or fans desiring to stomach another lockout, I’m hoping that common sense prevails here and that all can be worked out… 

VEGAS HAS SET THE STANLEY CUP odds for the upcoming season and in a “no surprise” to anyone line, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been picked as the overall favorites with 6-1 odds. Some of the rest of these, well, I don’t exactly agree with them, but I’ll give them to you anyway. Next up is the VGK at 7-1, Toronto and COL are at 10-1, Boston at 14-1, STL Blues are at 16-1, Washington, Dallas, Calgary and Nashville are at 20-1. Other notables in the listing are PITT, FLA, SJS and the Jets at 25-1, NYI, CARO, ARI, NYR and NJD are at 30-1. VAN is at 40-1, CHI, PHI and EDM are at 50-1, MON is a 60-1 choice, BUFF is at 80-1, CBJ, the WILD, DET, ANA, and the LAK are at 100-1 and the Senators are at 500-1 odds to lift the large Silver chalice overhead sometime next June. 

Right off the hop, Vegas, the Leaf’s and Bruins are too high up in my book. So are the Caps and Preds. The Wild are at 100-1 and that’s probably about right. It is unlikely they will win the Cup in this upcoming season. But at 100-1 odds would I plunk down a C-note on that? What about one grand? I could go on one heck of a vacation on the proceeds… PEACE