Listen, I know that the NHL's desperate to get the upper hand on the players. Their filing in federal court on Friday seeking to have the lockout deemed legal shows as much. One part of that filing that seemed to fly under the radar this weekend was the portion that asked that if the NHLPA vote to decertify, then the players — all of them — would be unrestricted free agents as their contracts would be dissolved.
With no player contracts, that means that every team in the league could go after whatever player that they wanted. Granted, this depends on what the new salary cap would be as well as how much money a particular team rakes in. It's pretty much a given that the Columbus Blue Jackets won't snag the Sedin twins, or that the New York Islanders won't add Ilya Kovalchuk to their ranks, but larger teams that rake in the dough would take this chance to become stacked
Image courtesy From the Point
If there are less wealthy teams that are fortunate enough to have a superstar among their ranks — say, the Nashville Predators with Shea Weber — those teams are going to have issues holding on to that star. Can the Preds compete with, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Rangers? They did well to match the offer sheet that the Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber to, and that may very well have been to the detriment of their franchise's future financial capabilities.
This is not saying that the Leafs will be loading up on superstars. This isn't NHL 13 with the salary cap turned off. There will be a cap, though what that will be is unknown. But still, they will have the chance to poach quality players from teams who are less well-off than they are. Not only will revenue sharing still continue to be a bone of contention, but the larger teams will basically be killing the viability of the less well to do franchises. This is something that the players' association would prefer not happen, since they would like to keep all 30 teams — and their jobs.
The perk here obviously would be for the stars. Having 30 contract offers coming at you, all with sizable dollar amounts attached, would be absolutely great for those guys. Third and fourth liners, though? They'll either wind up mostly concentrated on a few teams, or with deals right at league minimum or slightly above. If the smaller teams wind up getting contracted due to lack of income, attendance, and what ever else comes with having minimal quality players, then a lot of those third and fourth line guys will be out of work.
The only ones who win in this are the ones with money. Considering it's the wealthier owners and teams calling the shots in the lockout anyway, it stands as no surprise that they'd be the ones to benefit from such a request.
Here's hoping for the smaller markets and the guys with the smaller contracts that it doesn't.