NHL Trade Machine

At ESPN.com there’s a NBA Trade Machine, but no NHL Trade Machine. Is it the difference in cap rules? Or is it the lack of hockey fans relative to hoops fans? My guess is the latter. BTW, what are the NHL FA and cap rules? I know that one category involves the ages of the player, regardless of experience.

Why did the cap jump so much (relative to other increases) for the 2007-'08 season?

I would think it’s a perceived lack of interest in hockey by the guys at ESPN; trade talk, cap speculation and free agency signings are talked about pretty heavily on Canadian sports news sites like TSN.ca, CBC.ca, etc.

Here’s a pretty good summary of the current cap rules in the NHL. I don’t really think there are many issues with regards to trading; either a trade keeps you under the cap (and over the floor) or it doesn’t, but I’m not really an expert on this. A trade results in the new team owning the entire contract for a player; duration, cap hit, etc.

There are two types of free agents: restricted and unrestricted. These refer to how the existing team can choose to handle them at the end of their contracts. Players can become unrestricted free agents at the age of 27, or 7 years in the NHL whichever comes first. Here’s another good summary.

As for the rise in the cap in 07-08, it’s a function of the league’s hockey-related revenue; the players (cap) get 54% of the total revenue, so 06-07 must have been a good year. The cap has gone up by a few million every year since the lockout; it’s projected to go up to about 61-63 million this year, from what I’ve heard.

Mostly because ESPN - United States has no NHL programming, and thus no interest in doing anything related to the NHL. They have some college hockey programming and a desperate fear that the NBA and NFL will leave them high and dry next fall, and thus are the only reasons why they even give NHL scores. The NHL US tv rights were up for bid this year and ESPN got shut out. NBC/Comcast outbid them and will place the NHL in a spotlighted position in what will be a national sports channel push. The first real competition ESPN has felt in a while. Many of the dunderheads, I mean NHL fans, bemoan this tv deal as bad because the league didn’t go running back to ESPN and take what ever it was offered. Which would be bottom of the totem pole position as soon as the labor situation with the NFL and the NBA is resolved (in my opinion after some lose of games, but not significantly into the hockey season). In this fashion hockey fans are like battered women who believe that if they go back to ESPN they will be treated nicely this time.

More so, trades are not big on the NHL radar at the moment. The Draft will be the nominal focus for the next week. The NHL draft in some years can be a game changer for teams. Some of the drama will be trades, but those are generally not going to happen until the day of the draft. After the draft, the focus will be on the July 1 free agent date. In recent years this is a more exciting day, or days, than the in-season trade deadline.

TSN.ca has a trade centre in its NHL section, and you will see draft and free agency side widgets take more important places on the website over the next few weeks. Similar widgets will pop-up on other sites.

The irony to my anti-ESPN rant is that TSN does a wonderful job of covering hockey, being in Canada they had better, but they are effectively ESPN - Canada. I believe ESPN owns 20% but the company uses ESPN feeds, lookalike logos, and other branding.

There’s no NFL Trade Machine either, and that league has a salary cap, and certainly doesn’t lack for interest (of course, trades are uncommon in the NFL, but still).

The NBA’s salary cap is complicated, the NHL’s is not. The NHL’s Trade Machine is a guy with two numbers and a calculator.