Monday, September 10, 2007

Niedermayer's needs

Surely he informed Brian Burke of his intentions long ago, which could very well revolve around him saving his body -- not to mention team salary-cap money -- by returning to the game late in the season.

Otherwise, what he's doing withholding his services and delaying an announcement on his playing future is disruptive and distracting a franchise that deserves better.
I can't say that I blame the players but if that is the plan I wish Scott Niedermayer was upfront about it. There is something distasteful about it, but I'm not sure exactly what. As Matt Fenwick notes, fans aren't particularly happy about it.
That certainly seems like a reasonable request in this situation: If Niedermayer wants to sit for 30 or 40 games, simply come out and say so, and allow the Ducks to plan accordingly.

Except the CBA doesn't allow that arrangement. Or, by extension, Niedermayer to give the Ducks any indication of his intentions.

Why, that would be cap circumvention!
26.3 Circumventions.
(a) No Club or Club Actor, directly or indirectly, may: (i) enter into any agreements, promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind, whether express, implied, oral or written, including without limitation, any SPC, Qualifying Offer, Offer Sheet or other transaction, or (ii) take or fail to take any action whatsoever, if either (i) or (ii) is intended to or has the effect of defeating or Circumventing the provisions of this Agreement or the intention of the parties as reflected by the provisions of this Agreement, including without limitation, provisions with respect to the financial and other reporting obligations of the Clubs and the League, Team Payroll Range, Player Compensation Cost Redistribution System, the Entry Level System and/or Free Agency.
There's nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that explicitly refers to potential retirements or quasi-retirements, but Brian Burke has referenced the fact they cannot agree upon a midseason date for a return due to circumvention concerns, and I'm betting this is something he's checked with the league.

As for Niedermayer, well, I think it is a problem that he signed a long-term deal and is now, unexpectedly, deciding to sit for what will likely be a half season to recharge the batteries.

He's certainly earned an awful lot over his NHL career, and I can understand that he may want a break, but coming off a season away already in 2004-05 and keeping in mind that he's only 34, I don't think it's unreasonable that he honour the contract he signed with the Ducks.

It's just one more CBA snag that puts the player, his team and the league in a tough spot, and something the NHL and Players' Association should really rework to allow for player burnout.

UPDATE Tyler Dellow disagrees with me:
By any sane definition the Niedermayer situation cannot be cap circumvention. In order for it to be cap circumvention, I would think that the team and the player would agree that the player would be receiving compensation in excess of that provided for in the contract. I can't see how Niedermayer sitting out games and not getting paid fits that definition. If your focus is on the fact that they're going to get Scott Niedermayer and only have to pay him for 40 games and then they get him for the playoffs, I think that you're missing the point - they'll have to play a bunch of regular season games without him. Burke is doing the right thing from a risk management standpoint, in saying nothing that might make someone raise that argument but I have no idea how it would meet that definition.
Not that there aren't more than a few insane things in the CBA.

The only way I can see it possibly being circumvention is that the Ducks are getting cap relief by suspending Niedermayer, using the suspension to void a portion of a contract. One would assume a team suspension functions as more than a convenient method to receive relief.

I'm going to have to do a bit more digging before we have an answer on this one.

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11 Comments:

At 3:07 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

I really don't know if the league should re-work this to allow for these types of situations. There doesn't really seem to be a need to do it for the most part. If a player doesn't honour his contract, he doesn't get paid. If a player doesn't honour his contract, the team avoids his cap hit by suspending said player.

I guess if it becomes a common practice, it might be an issue. But most players don't have Niedermeyer's clout. We don't need to change the rules to accomodate Niedermeyer, we just use the existing ones to deal with the situation.

Players are granted leaves of absence from teams for personal reasons (family crises/death are the most common). If a player is suffering from burnout, they can do what Scott is doing, and not get paid while sitting out.

It does seem fishy, and I think Nieds has pretty much indicated that he will be back, but the fact that he can't specifically say when isn't a huge issue. I'm sure vague language can give an accurate enough measurment for Burke.

 
At 3:30 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

OK, after re-reading that article and getting my head straightened out a bit I see that even my last paragraph in my comment is in violation of the CBA.

Brian Burke might be a lot of things, but he's never blatantly done anything in violation of a NHL rule to gain an advantage that I can remember. He'll take a fine if he thinks it'll help his team's morale, but that's more in the vein of self-sacrifice than anything close to cheating the system. I take back any implication that he is not being forthcoming here. Now, he could've advised Niedermeyer on this clause, and say that he can't commit one way or the other, but he legally has done no wrong.

 
At 3:32 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger FAUXRUMORS said...

1) As some of our regular readers of our blog may recall, we have been vocal in our chastisement of the future Hall of Fame defender for dragging his feet(skates) in making this decision. http://newfaux.blogspot.com/2007/07/penner-offer-sheet-to-force-niedermayer.html#links
However it appears that Scott even at this late date has NOT Yet decided!!

2) While some thought he deserved time to make a decision, we felt that after a few weeks off he was obligated to let his employers know what direction he was going to take and not leave them hanging. In a 'salary cap NHL' a player who is owed another 13.5 million for 2 seasons needs to make clear his intentions as soon as possible. Here we are into September, with training camp a mere week away and we are still in the dark as to what Scott will decide to do. We find that absurd! While we're sure Brian Burke won't be saying anything derogatory about his (former-?)captain in public, privately we're sure he can't be too happy with the prolonged uncertainty.

4) Like Selanne, one possibility floating around the Niedermayer camp is an early/mid season return. To that we say, "What the hell for"??? Its not like Niedermayer is coming off a major injury or is dealing with a significant family/personal situation that requires his time. So whats his problem? We always knew he was somewhat of a flake but to do that to his teammates and organization that invested a boat load of cash shows a lack of respect and selfishness we can not ignore. On-ice accomplishments aside, that would be a bush league maneuver. One that until now was relegated to the likes of Roger Clemens. Shit or get off the pot Scott!

 
At 4:10 PM, September 10, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

Neidermeyer is just playing out his role in Brian Burke's grand scheme.

After the cup win - when Selanne and Neidermeyer were contemplating retirement - Burke came up with the scheme that both players come back on November 30, 2007. By missing training camp and the first one -third of the season, both players would be well rested for another cup run and the time off would help to extend their careers.

Also, the salary savings would allow Burke to sign Schneider to pair with Beauchemin and allow the signing of a big power forward (Bertuzzi) to play with Selanne. As a result, Anahiem would be a deadlock certainty to win a second consecutive cup - again a very appealing prospect to both Selanne and Neidermeyer.

According to NHLNUMBERS.com and NHLSCAP.com, assuming Bobby Ryan makes the team at $1,922k; Brysgalov plays backup and Hiler is in the AHL; and Selanne is signed for $6,000k; the full year cap hit for the 23 man roster (including Neidermeyer and Selanne) is $53,646.

Now if Selanne and Neidermeyer return on November 30, 2007, the salary and cap saving is 59/187 x $12,750k = $4,022K. This brings Anahiems total season cap hit from $53,646 to $49,624 - below the $50,300k maximum. Also, Anahiem has the flexibility to move Ryan's rookie bonus payment (over one million) to next year to cover any short term injuries - or add even more players at the trade deadline.

In the case of Selanne this is no problem as he does not have a contract. Presumably Selanne has a hand shake agreement with Burke that a $6 million one year contract will be offerred around November 30.

However, in the case of Neidermeyer there would be cap circumvention if there was an agreed date of return. So Burke and Neidermeyer have come up with this well publicized Hamlet routine - "to play or not to play" - to give them "cover" to the fact they have verbally agreed Neidermeyer will return on November 30.

The other part of this deception has to do with Anahiem's owners. Burke has said many times that his internal budget this year is $45 million. To circumvent this, Selanne and Neidermeyer say they are retiring which allows Burke to sign Bertuzzi and Schneider and still stay within the $45 million budget.

Then on November 30th both Neidermeyer and Selanne say they want to return - provided both return together. Burke then goes to the owners to get permission to exceed the budget knowing that - given fan presuure - the owners cannot refuse.

Burke played this little game with ownership once before when he used fan pressure to force John McCaw into agreeing to a three year $24 million deal for Bertuzzi with Vancouver. While the owner acceded to fan pressure and allowed Burke to sign Bertuzzi, it ultimately led to Burke being fired by the owner.

However, in this case Burke could care less if he eventually gets fired over this, as Anahiem - with this lineup - will win a second consecutive cup, and that in turn will allow Burke to "write his ticket" for any GM job in the league - for the most money ever paid to a GM.

Burke is one sneaky guy!! Its sad though that Neidermeyer has agreed to participate in this sham act.

 
At 4:15 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger godot10 said...

Have the Ruotsaleinen Rule apply, where the player be forced to clear waivers before returning.

Rexy R. didn't like playing the full season, so Sather would let him play in Europe till February, and then he would come play for the Oilers starting in February. He was a crucial player in the 1990 Oiler Cup run after returning mid-season. The rest of the league created the rule to stop this, by forcing a player returning from Europe in mid-season to clear waivers...i.e. the Ruotsaleinen rule.

It would quickly stop this Niedermayer nonsense. If a player is earning $8 million a season, who is to say a whole bunch of them might decide that they only want to play 40 per year instead of 80.

 
At 4:24 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

Sounds like a hole in the rules that needs to be plugged. Could we potentially see a team playing with $10k with of juniors for half the year and then loading up with an equivalent $200k/year salary for the last month of the season? (yes I'm exaggerating)

Why not say "if you hire a player who hasn't played for half the season, you need to take the cap hit as if they played the entire year"

i.e. - You hire for Mr. Hockey in november for 5 million for the rest of the year. You take a 7 million cap hit since he wasn't active for the fist few months

 
At 4:26 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

Er, make those numbers in millions not thousands.

 
At 5:07 PM, September 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I knew Burke was powerful, but he (or his lawyer buddies) got to Saskhab in only 23 minutes. Before the hour is out, Frank's boss can expect a call from Burke demanding Frank be fired. Good luck, Frank. David Pratt and Al Strachan send their love.

 
At 5:51 PM, September 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see what all the fuss is about. Either concerns with Niedermayer's decision, or concerns with CBA rules being played with.

Number 1, whoever said Niedermayer is a flake needs to take a look in the mirror. This guy has been a winner and leader absolutely everywhere he has played. He has won ALL the silver, and had earned his respect in this game. The opinion of a blogger therefore holds absolutely NO water in the face of those accomplishments. None. The guy is a champ, nothing else. He can do what he wants.

Number 2 - why would the CBA stuff matter here? I have to believe few players would willingly surrender millions of dollars with regularity in order to recharge the batteries. Is this really an epidemic problem? It's the first I've heard of it. So why not just let this go?

Third - people have been saying for years the season is just way too long. During the strike, I read stories of people suggesting the season be reduced to 70 games to save the players. Neidermayer has played a lot of hockey in his career. It strikes me as an excellent idea for him to take some time off so that he can come back to play, fully rested and ready for another Cup run. I'm surprised more GM's don't actively attempt to do a thing like this anyway - besides getting your best players in top form, it allows you save some cap room.

 
At 1:02 AM, September 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Niedermayer=Neidermayer
Anaheim=Anahiem
Ruotsalainen=Ruotsaleinen

It's not that hard, if you try.
(It's not that hierd, if you trie.)

 
At 5:05 PM, September 11, 2007, Blogger Blitzen said...

Now that he has been officially suspended, I believe that this qualifies as circonvention. Clearly not getting paid for the games not played is not a concern for a guy in his financial position. He's taking an unpaid leave of absence, the team gets to get the best world of both having him on contract, using his salary for someone else, keeping him on contract and then putting it all back together once he is healthy and the team needs fresh, experienced legs for another run. Teams might as well suspend any player with an injury that lasts more than a month so they too can let him rest, free up cap space for a utility player and then get the roster back where they want it when the player is ready to come back. This is just playing fast and loose with the rules. I don't expect integrity from Burke but I expected more from Scott.

 

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