30 Thoughts: NHL thrilled by media rights bonanza | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: NHL thrilled by media rights bonanza

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 | 10:30 AM

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, right, enjoys a laugh as he shakes hands with Rogers Communications president and CEO Nadir Mohamed to seal a 12-year, $5.2-billion media rights deal in Toronto on Tuesday.  (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty Images) NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, right, enjoys a laugh as he shakes hands with Rogers Communications president and CEO Nadir Mohamed to seal a 12-year, $5.2-billion media rights deal in Toronto on Tuesday. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty Images)

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No doubt NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made team owners very happy by negotiating a 12-year, $5.2-billion deal with Rogers Communications for exclusive Canadian media rights.

Okay, so now that the NHL and Rogers Communications have combined for the largest sports media rights deal in Canadian history, what does that mean for your favourite hockey team?

It means your team will get an infusion of cash, with the Canadian clubs getting a little extra to make up for regional games that will no longer have blackout protection. No doubt NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made his owners very happy with the new contract. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis even tweeted his support. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the league's salary cap cannot drop below this season's figure of $64.3 million. But that's not going to be at all relevant the way this is going. The new Canadian rights contract could bump the max up $3 million on its own (although it won't take effect until 2015-16 because it doesn't count as revenue until next season).

While there is nothing firm for 2014-15, a couple of NHL general managers said they expect the cap to be close to the $70.2-million figure from the lockout-shortened 2013 season (Don't forget there is a clause in the new CBA allowing for a five per cent "escalator" on the initial figure and only once in the previous deal did it go unused). Last summer, those same GMs said they'd been told to expect an $80-million limit in the not-too-distant future. Now, depending on outdoor games, a World Cup and the fact the annual media rights fee grows toward $500 million per season, I can't help but wonder if we're looking at an even higher number very soon. That's really something.

That's good for players, who get 50 per cent and would, in theory, have a better chance of reducing escrow payments. Right now, the number of teams using "Long-Term Injury" to ease a tight cap is murder on escrow.

It's good for the trade market, jammed this season because so many teams are so close to the limit. More breathing room means more rumours, beloved by fans and media, not so much by GMs.

The only thing to worry about here is the salary floor, if you love a low-revenue club. Article 50.5 b (i) of the CBA states "the magnitude of the Team Payroll Range shall never be less than $16 million ... or greater than $28 million."

The promise of this new agreement allowed Bettman to stabilize his three biggest trouble spots: Florida, New Jersey and Phoenix. No doubt the owners of those teams, like Leonsis in Washington, are thrilled by the television bonanza and updated revenue-sharing formula.

The true test of the new CBA will be how many teams can't afford to go much higher than the floor because you know the revenue powerhouses can't wait to flex their financial-steroid muscles.

That's the only concern I see. It's at $44 million this season, and a $60-million base - with the upper limit approximately $20 million higher - is not out of the question in the near future.

30 Thoughts

1. Prior to last weekend's Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, I had a chance to chat with Capitals GM George McPhee. One of the topics was defenceman Dmitri Orlov. "He's very similar to [Slava] Voynov from L.A. ... three full years in the minors and now a really good NHL player," McPhee said. "He is ready for the NHL and it is time to find a full-time spot for him." Orlov is yo-yoing between AHL Hershey and "The Beltway," although he's yet to play an NHL game this season. On Tuesday, The Washington Post's Katie Carrera reported why.  Orlov can leave to the KHL on Jan. 1 if not on the roster for 30 days this season. When I asked McPhee about such worries, he replied: "He wants to be an NHL player. He stayed here in the summer and is a really top-notch kid who wants to play here."

2. More McPhee on Orlov: "With us or somebody else -- ideally, with us -- he wants to get playing." It's an interesting time for Washington as McPhee said he spent a couple of days last week (and planned to spend more time this week) working the phones to see "if anything makes sense for us." Things are a little clearer now: he was talking about Martin Erat and dealing with Orlov's situation (NB: McPhee is not the source of any anonymous info in this blog).

3. The conversation about Orlov reminded me of a chat I had with another GM a few years ago. He really liked his head coach. But he was unhappy younger players were "blocked" from getting a shot over veterans the coach was comfortable with, so he traded them. It worked for that team, so I wonder if that is what McPhee may try and do.

4. It's public knowledge that Erat, owner of the penthouse in Capitals head coach Adam Oates' doghouse, asked to be dealt. While there will be interest because Erat's salary is $2.25 million lower than his cap hit next season, the fact that he's now made two trade requests in less than 12 months hurts, even though no one could have predicted what's happened in Washington.

5. Asked which team is the best he's seen this season, McPhee said: "St. Louis. I didn't realize some of their forwards are as good as they are." He named Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko.

6. Another player who asked to be traded, Vern Fiddler of the Dallas Stars, apparently reconsidered and word is Stars GM Jim Nill pulled him off the market. Nill said the two talked and Fiddler is staying because he likes the room and team.

7. I saw the Stars play in Buffalo a few weeks ago and talked to Cody Eakin about playing centre in the Western Conference. Eakin said that, when he was traded from the Capitals, "I couldn't win a faceoff." Fiddler, sitting next to him, blurted out, "That's because you were too weak." Eakin and a couple other guys loved that, so I could see why Fiddler fits in.

8. After watching the Anaheim Ducks implode in the third period of Tuesday's 6-3 loss to Dallas, a thought hit me: "Would it make sense for the Ducks to pursue Ryan Miller?" No doubt, he'd love to play there and Anaheim doesn't seem 100 per cent comfortable with Jonas Hiller. Viktor Fasth is hurt and Frederik Andersen may not be ready for a club with lofty goals. There's no long-term responsibility with Miller. It's pure speculation on my part. But I see some logic to it.

9. One thing to remember is the Ducks, with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, have two first-round draft picks in 2014. One of them is from Ottawa (Bobby Ryan trade) and the more the Senators struggle, the more valuable that pick becomes in the market. Don't think that's going unnoticed.

10. Ottawa and the New York Rangers talked about Michael Del Zotto. It was quickly determined there wasn't a match. Del Zotto's market value is a little low right now. But New York is determined to get a fair price for the guy, who twice led Rangers defencemen in scoring and averaged more than 20 minutes per game the last two seasons. I thought the Edmonton Oilers might be a potential destination. But that doesn't sound like a fit, either. They want size on the blue-line.

11. I've always wondered how close Edmonton came to getting Ben Bishop, currently standing tall in Tampa Bay's goal. The Lightning got him from the Senators for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick. From what I understand, the Oilers offered a second-rounder, a third-rounder and Ryan Jones. The issue? That second-rounder was Anaheim's, which turned out to be 56th overall and Ottawa wanted Edmonton's original spot, which was 37th. It sounds like the deal fell apart when the Albertans wouldn't do it.

12. The Calgary Flames will adopt Brian Burke's pre-Christmas "trade freeze." The NHL's moratorium begins Dec, 19; Burke's begins 10 days earlier. After the world juniors, the plan is for the organization to sit down and decide how to proceed with its unrestricted free agents, including Mike Cammalleri, Kris Russell, Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak.

13. There is some interest in Mikael Backlund, who has another year under contract at $1.5 million and two more years before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Some doubt he is a top-six centre. But there is a feeling he could be an effective third-liner because he has good defensive sense. There are teams that believe Backlund is a victim of changing expectations in Calgary and would benefit from a fresh start.

14. Add Brad Treliving of the Phoenix Coyotes to the list of Pat LaFontaine's interviewees for the GM's job in Buffalo. There is still no firm confirmation of permission to talk to Rick Dudley. But one thing you can be sure of, Dudley will try to keep it quiet. He's very old-school and does not want to be perceived as lobbying for the job.

15. A stick tap to Hockey Night colleague Kevin Weekes on this one. The Los Angeles Kings made a couple of subtle changes to Ben Scrivens' style after getting him from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Scrivens went to California in August to meet with goalie coach Bill Ranford and Kim Dillabaugh, who is in charge of goalie development (he also works for the WHL Kelowna Rockets). The two men worked with Scrivens to alter both the elbow and hand position on his catching arm.

16. Scrivens' glove hand was a source of controversy in Toronto (isn't everything a controversy there?) because he held it in a claw-like manner. "The first step for Bill and I is to ask why Ben plays the position the way he does, his philosophy and reasons for doing things," Dillabaugh said Tuesday. "I don't think there are two goaltenders who hold the glove identically. We wanted to allow Ben to be better able to react effectively with his hand. His elbow was elevated ... We brought it down and put his hands out a little more in front of body."

17. The tinkering certainly has helped. With Jonathan Quick injured, Scrivens is flourishing. His 1.44-goals against average and .947 save percentage are very impressive. But Dillabaugh refuses to let he and Ranford take too much credit. "Ben's a tremendous student of the game, thoughtful and detailed," he said. "He understood what we were looking to do, worked hard and made it to become habit for him ... He really did a good job of taking what we asked him to do and applying it."

18. A brief AHL scouting report on San Antonio Rampage centre Vincent Trocheck, a Florida Panthers prospect. One player had very high praise: "Unreal with the puck and has that Corey Perry ability to just slide by guys and not get hit. Going to be a helluva player."

19. Sometimes, players who sign new contracts have trouble dealing with the pressure of living up to them. But Brian Little of the Winnipeg Jets doesn't have that problem. He leads them with 24 points in 26 games and credits a sports psychologist he began to see three years ago. Little said she helped him learn to relax and still keeps in touch when necessary. "I wish I'd [started seeing her] sooner," he said.

20. Recently, I wrote about Erik Karlsson and the feeling his stride isn't yet 100 per cent right. One player who understands is Jets defenceman Zach Redmond, who is making a terrific comeback from a sliced artery and vein suffered last February. Redmond said his own step isn't fully recovered and won't be until he gets another full summer of workouts. He added the groin muscles in his right leg are still shorter than those in the left. It was great to see him back in the NHL for the time being. Good luck.

21. Michal Handzus is back in Chicago's lineup. But it's pretty clear the Blackhawks are going to rest him as much as possible to save his best for the playoffs. In the meantime, they're testing more youth in big roles. Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw were major contributors to the 2013 championship team and it appears Brandon Pirri will be given that chance this time. Pirri spent the summer in Chicago working out with Brandon Bollig. After three AHL seasons (174 points in 212 games), Pirri said the organization told him to be confident in himself because he would get a shot. He looks pretty good.

22. Last Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens is the kind of game that concerns Pittsburgh Penguins management. "We have to find a way to manage our emotion," Penguins GM Ray Shero said last week. "We can't let an 0-for-4 or an 0-for-5 powerplay ruin our night ... We've had games where we totally dominated. But when the other team scores first, we alter our game. Why do we alter our mindset? We're trying to change that." Pittsburgh failed on early first-period man advantages, then gave up the game's first goal early in the second. A big comeback fell short (NB: Shero is also not a source for any anonymous notes).

23. Shero did disagree with the suggestion that the Penguins save their best for big games or high-level opponents. For example, one Capital said you could see in the warmup how fired up Pittsburgh was against Washington last week. That 4-0 win was about as perfect a perfomance Pittsburgh has tossed up all year.

24. One scout on the difference between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin so far this year: Malkin is not using his size and strength as often as Crosby, especially when things aren't going well.

25. Some pretty smart coaching from Todd Richards of the Columbus Blue Jackets after last week's 7-0 embarrassment in Edmonton. Richards ripped his club in the media post-game (not undeserved), then let them know what he thought face-to-face the next morning. When the Blue Jackets stepped on the ice for a skate in Calgary, Richards didn't go out with them. He realized they needed a break, so let assistant coaches Craig Hartsburg and Dan Hinote handle things instead. Small move, but an intelligent one.

26. Some notes on the concussion lawsuit filed by retired NHL players. One of the people who did a fantastic job chronicling the football situation was Paul D. Anderson, a Missouri-based lawyer. He created NFLConcussionLitigation.com, a website devoted to the case. Last year, Anderson said in an interview that football players had compelling evidence that the NFL knew about the dangers of concussions yet covered it up. He had no knowledge the same thing existed in hockey.

27. That evidence is heavily detailed in the book and PBS documentary entitled League of Denial. It involves a doctor named Elliot Pellman, the one-time head of the NFL's "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee." Pellman had no experience in brain research -- he was a rheumatologist -- and embellished his medical credentials. He worked extremely hard to discredit any link between brain damage and football, even though there was legitimate reason to believe otherwise. His name is no longer on the team's website, but he did work for the Islanders starting in 1996. I can't find any similar links from him about hockey, but his work will again be under scrutiny.

28. Two of the players named in the suit, Gary Leeman and Rick Vaive, politely declined comment when reached. However, another player familiar with the suit (but not named in it) said to look at why the NFLers settled. "A lot of guys are hurting and have big medical bills," he said. Rightly or wrongly, many feel neglected by both the NHL and NHL Players' Association, financially and mentally. They had hoped the new CBA would address this. Apparently, it didn't to their satisfaction. This will certainly get everyone's attention.

29. Make no mistake, the NHL will fight this hard. There were criticisms that the football players gave up too soon. But that's easily said when you're not the one needing help. Afterwards, Christopher Seeger, one of the plaintiffs' lead lawyers, referred to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as a "hard-ass" and added, "I believe we got everything we could possibly get out of the NFL in this litigation." That will not go unnoticed by the NHL.

30. It will also be interesting to see if the retirees go after equipment manufacturers. After the football settlement, a separate lawsuit was launched against Riddell, the NFL's long-time helmet supplier. One of the main accusations is that the company claimed its product could reduce concussions. Helmets help prevent skull fracture. But there is no evidence they can reduce concussions.

Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC

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