It’s believed that the salary cap makes establishing a dynasty impossible, but a paradigm shift could put the Vancouver Canucks in position to form one.
During the past month, some disconcerting news connected with the Vancouver Canucks’ front office has been circulating.
Patrick Johnston of the Vancouver Province has been piecing together a case suggesting that Canucks Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett might not be continuing with the team when his contract runs out later this year, and over the past two weeks, this story has been picking up steam.
Given the gems that Brackett’s uncanny insight has been uncovering, the Canucks should be backing up the Brinks truck and giving him whatever he wants. After all, his genius at spotting diamonds in the rough has produced a stream of prospects over the past three drafts that is arguably the greatest three-year haul the NHL has seen since it instituted the draft in 1963. Because of Brackett, Vancouver may very well have the makings of a dynasty.
Yes, I realize it’s universally accepted that establishing a dynasty in the NHL is no longer possible, given the salary cap effectively prevents any one team from retaining the elite talent needed to make deep Cup runs several years in a row. But I would contend that if the Canuck players were willing to undergo a paradigm shift, they would be able to side-step the salary-cap problem and be on their way to establishing a dynasty on the west coast.
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What would this paradigm shift entail? Consider the case of Paul Kariya. For the 2002-03 season, Kariya signed a $10 million contract. But the following summer, when that contract had run out, he took an 88 percent salary cut, signing with the Colorado Avalanche for a mere $1.2 million. Why would he do such a thing? Kariya and closefriend Teemu Selanne were both free agents, and they wanted to try winning a Stanley Cup together.
To this end, they both signed with Colorado, which was one of the strongest teams in the league at that time. However, because the Avalanche had a high payroll, they could only offer Kariya a fraction of what he was worth. But for him, winning a Cup with his buddy was more important than millions of dollars in his pocket.
Imagine if Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs had prioritized Cup wins over eight-figure salaries? Their insistence on getting what they considered fair market value for their services has led to a salary cap crisis for the Leafs that all but ensures Toronto will not be a Cup contender any time soon.
The Canucks, with the fruits of Brackett’s stellar scouting, could also find themselves facing multiple eight-figure salary demands in the not-too-distant future.
But what if all the players put their heads together and collectively decide that with every new contract they negotiate, they would ask for less than fair market value in order to increase their chances of winning the Cup, and perhaps even establish a dynasty in Vancouver?
Of course, they would not need to take an 88 percent haircut like Kariya did. But for every five players taking even just a 20 percent discount, one player wouldn’t need to be let go for salary cap reasons.
Now, for you or me, a 20 percent reduction in salary might be a big hit. But for players making even a relatively modest $3 million per year, such a reduction could mean just the difference between career earnings of $24 million as opposed to $30 million, not likely to cramp their style very much. And, anyway, wouldn’t collecting multiple Stanley Cup rings be worth it?
Because this paradigm shift would require that all players on a team be willing to take the same percentage reduction in pay, no player could have an existing big-dollar contract that would constitute a significant deviation from the 80 percent of fair market value standard.
Choosing $7 million as a reasonable floor for big-dollar contracts, I scanned through HockeyReference.com to see how many teams were free of contracts worth $7 million-plus annually, and I only found the Canucks and the Ottawa Senators. I must admit I was nervous last summer when it was looking like Brock Boeser’s contract negotiations might yield a dollar figure upwards of $8 million. I breathed a sigh of relief when it came in considerably lower.
Of course, what is being suggested here is radical; all paradigm shifts are. But undertaking paradigm shifts can also be the route to fulfilling dreams. And wouldn’t it be great if Canuck Nation could realize its collective dream of Stanley Cup parades year after year in Vancouver?