Executive director Paul Kelly took some time to provide an update on the NHLPA, its outlook on the economy, and how it will affect player salaries moving forward.
“Obviously, it’s probably the issue we’re spending most of our time and attention on during the fall tour,” Kelly said. “It didn’t start that way. We were focusing on the CBA and hockey issues. But things around the economy continued to deteriorate and it’s eaten up more of our attention.”
* Kelly projected that the salary cap will not rise in 2009-10 and may decrease in 2010-11 by $1 or $2 million. During the board of governors meeting earlier this week, team representatives were given similar news: that, most likely, the cap will either stay the same or rise slightly next year, but decrease in 2010-11.
* Kelly said the players are not expected to earn back their escrow money this season. Kelly estimated that because of the slowing of league revenue, players will earn between 85 and 92 percent of their actual negotiated contracts. “If you’re a million-dollar player, you may only earn $880,000 or $900,000,” Kelly said. “That’s a significant chunk of salary that may well be taken by escrow. That is a direct result of the economy and how it’s impacting our sport. We are monitoring the situation very closely.”
* While cap problems might curb the trend of rising contracts, Kelly said the top-tier players heading into unrestricted free agency should still earn lucrative paydays. Kelly cited Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg as an example. “You’ve got to pay Henrik Zetterberg to play for you,” Kelly said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s an exciting player. He’s a guy who can singlehandedly carry a team. I don’t think a guy with his skill level is going to suffer that big a shock in the marketplace. He’s one example. There are dozens of guys that fit that profile. I do think that if I’m a GM, I’ve got to sign those guys and wrap them up long-term. I’m going to do it whether it’s this year or in the next 12 months.”
* Kelly acknowledged that players and their agents understand the economic situation and might have to accept less in salary because money might not be available. However, Kelly noted that team owners are more insulated against a poor economy than the rank-and-file players. “Yes, they’re realistic. Yes, they want to do what they can to survive,” Kelly said of the players. “On the other hand, I don’t think guys want to make enormous individual personal sacrifices. They’re less in position to absorb some of those approaches than our billionaire orders. Some billionaire owners say they’re losing money on a year-to-year basis. But their franchise values have increased tremendously. Whatever they’ve claimed to have lost in a two- or three-year period, they can quickly claim by selling their franchises. Then their alleged losses would come back.”
Look for more from Kelly and how the economy could affect the Bruins in tomorrow’s Globe.