The threat of the NHL voiding all contracts if the NHLPA does a Disclaimer of Interest isn't just an NHL issue. It's going to affect much of professional hockey in North America. And I totally believe that they'll do it, too. They're arrogant enough to think that it's a good idea.
From everything I've read, the NHL and the NHLPA aren't actually very far apart in regards to the negotiation. But, at this point, that doesn't even matter. The entire point of this little exercise is to spite NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr. That's it.
You see, the PA was broken in 2004-2005. This was supposed to be the owners time to get exactly what they wanted. Again. But then Fehr came along and ruined it all for them.
On top of that, Fehr's also gotten into NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's head. No one's publicly been able to do that before. And, as Bettman is a petty sort of individual, that's obviously got to be punished. And what better way to punish Fehr than to make his employers - the NHL players - hate him?
Yeah, that hasn't gone over well. The PA still back Fehr. So the next step is the US federal court system. Because, you know, that always goes right.
What the owners/Bettman fail to recognize is that Fehr's seen all of this before with baseball. Sure, he's not a hockey guy, but this is about business, not sport. Fehr's much better at this sort of thing than Bettman is, and Bettman doesn't want to admit it.
So this whole fiasco is going down because Bettman and the owners hate Fehr. When, in reality, they could have a deal by now. It's a pretty contemptable situation, actually, and one that I doubt a lot of fans will flock back to.
But, it doesn't just affect the NHL. If the NHL does choose the nuclear option of canceling all NHL player contracts, that also kills the AHL. The majority of AHL contracts are two-way deals that originate with NHL teams - who also foot the bill for those players. So killing NHL contracts may lead the AHL to suspend operations since AHL teams themselves can't afford to pay for 23 players on their own.
Sure, there's the ECHL, but how many of those guys are on NHL team contracts? And if the AHL pulls all of their guys up from the ECHL, what happens to that league? Likely, they'd have to suspend operations. At some point, it all collapses in a horrible, ugly way.
That's just the players - there are also arena workers, front office people, and the rest to consider as well.
And then, when the NHL finally gets back to playing, what happens then? Do they have a free agent draft or is it just a free agent signing free-for-all? I can see most of the stars staying where they had been, but after that the teams will be completely different - including the minor league teams.
Frankly, if I were an NHLer, I wouldn't go back to the NHL after they canceled all contracts. I'd take a year and play in Europe instead - particularly if I were a guy that most teams wanted to sign. The biggest statement any of these NHLers could make would be to choose to not play in the NHL after that.
Could you imagine if Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist, and a few others didn't come back right away? That would be the best. Why play in the NHL if they're just going to treat you like crap? It's about the only sort of power an NHLer has - where he chooses to play as a free agent. And if everyone becomes a free agent, well, then they can choose to not play in the league that sees them as cattle, right?
Think anyone would turn Stamkos down after being gone for a year? Think the NHL would take that chance again if they didn't come right back? The star players could get away with that, but probably no one else could - unless it was a whole lot of them that decided to do that.