Players share blame for bad timing

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter may not smile as much if they have to roll back their salaries. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

There are two questions regarding the current CBA that don't necessarily cast the players as heady negotiators:

  • Why sign a CBA that would allow an offseason of activity and then change the rules on the contracts just signed?

  • Why let the old deal expire at the end of the summer as training camps are about to open?

    The way the timing works out, players who just signed free-agent deals -- such as Ryan Suter and Zach Parise -- may have to give back as much as 24 percent of their salaries, which is a rollback the owners are seeking. It's the same amount the players gave back after the canceled season of 2004-05.

    When they signed their huge contracts in July, Suter and Parise knew the labor deal expired on Sept 15. So did every other free agent.

    They could have waited until a new deal was in place and then determined where they wanted to play based on the new rules. Maybe Parise takes the max offer that was on the table -- reportedly by Philadelphia -- instead of taking less from Minnesota. Because that “less” is going to be even worse if the owners have their way. The idea that the players just negotiated in good faith and now have to give back a lot of that money just doesn't hold water. They knew what the possibilities were.

    Speaking of negotiating in good faith, you have to wonder if teams knew exactly what was coming -- from commissioner Gary Bettman -- as they negotiated this summer. Maybe Minnesota isn't acquiring Parise and Suter if it didn't already know those $98 million contracts are potentially going to be closer to $75 million. That goes for any team with any free agent. No wonder there was so much money thrown around. Teams knew they weren't going to have to pay it all.

    But that's neither here nor there, in fact, it's much easier to feel sorry for the player who signed a long-term deal before last season, since it would be understandable that the labor strife wouldn't be first and foremost on his mind. Plus, a guy entering the third year of a long-term deal has a much bigger gripe than one whose contract hasn't even started. The former is at least used to his paycheck being what it is. Now he might have to see it shrink. Suter and Parise will just need to pretend they negotiated smaller deals.

    In the two most recent labor issues in other sports -- the NBA and NFL -- both began their lockouts as the offseason commenced. The NBA locked out on July 1 while the NFL did it on March 11. Offseason activity took place -- in a frenzy -- only after new collective bargaining agreements were signed. Plus, it gave a sense of urgency to the situation at hand well before their respective new seasons began. If the NHL locked out on July 1 it could only help the timing of negotiations, not hurt them. Now maybe the real sense of urgency would still only kick in as the season approached but with players unable to work with their teams in the offseason and teams unable to communicate with players, attitudes might be different. Then, with a new agreement in place, agents and players could move forward knowing the new parameters.

    Once again, the league with comparatively less success, does things backwards which leads to a Sept. 15 expiration of the contract instead of earlier like the other sports. Maybe the difference is in a 66-game schedule which the NBA just endured compared to losing an entire season which happened all too recently in the NHL.

    Predictably, the collective bargaining agreement previous to the lost season in 2004-05 expired on Sept. 15 as well leading to a Sept. 16 lockout. Apparently, the NHL and its players didn't learn from that mistake and might be bound to repeat it.