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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Three ways I would change the NHL

Yesterday, Jason Gregor wrote a great piece on the idea of the NHL changing the draft age to 19. I really like that idea and it’s one of those topics that gets brought up almost every offseason. I honestly believe it’s only a matter of time until the league decides to make that change.

While reading Gregor’s piece, I began thinking about other changes I would like to see the NHL make. I have plenty, but there are three that I would love to see. One is a major change to the salary cap system, one is a tweak to the one ice product, and one is a very small change to the look of the league.

Here are three things I would change about the NHL.

THE EXEMPTED CONTRACT

I like the salary cap system in the NHL because it brings an element of parity that doesn’t really exist in either of the other four major North American sports leagues. It makes the NHL unique in the sense that any organization, in any market, can build a contender no matter what their budget is. Vegas in 2017-18 and Carolina this past season are prime examples.

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While I love the element of parity, what I don’t like is how the salary cap suppresses the ability for superstar players to make what they’re worth and while I like that every organization is on an even playing field, I wouldn’t mind seeing rich and well-run organizations get a little bit of an advantage. 

I’m not sure if I’m the biggest fan of the luxury tax system, but if it’s done properly I think it can work really well. At the same time, I can’t see the NHL making a change that radical. What I would like to see is simple: the highest-paid salary for any NHL team is exempt from the salary cap.

There are plenty of benefits to this and honestly, I can’t think of a lot of downfalls. 

Star players could earn what they deserve, instead of feeling pressured to take less for the sake of the team. Teams would have an easier time building around those star players which would mean that it’s we might see the leagues star players playing in meaningful hockey games on a more regular basis.

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I enjoy lots of player movement in the summer and this would increase that since the league’s top-end teams would have more cap space but at the same time, teams that spend their money in reckless ways would be punished just as much as they are now. If you go and blow $15 million on veteran free agents, those contracts wouldn’t go away just because you have an exempted contract. 

The only rule I would add is that a player could only be your exempted contract is he’s been on your roster for three seasons. That would mean teams have added incentive to keep their own free agents or players coming off RFA contracts. In a situation like John Tavares going to the Leafs, they could have signed him to a seven-year deal but he would have had to count against their cap until year four of the deal. At least that’s how it would work in my fantasy world.

I believe this is a way for the league to reward good organizations and their superstar players while also keeping the level of parity and unpredictability that makes the NHL unique.

MORE 3v3 OT

The shootout was fun for one season, maybe two. After that, I didn’t like it, but it was better than a game ending in a tie. Now, after the introduction of three-on-three overtime, I would be okay if I never saw another shootout again.

I also understand that there are some hockey traditionalists that don’t enjoy the three-on-three overtime format simply because it doesn’t feel like hockey. My counter-argument to them would be: it’s better than the shootout.

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Personally, I love three-on-three overtime. It showcases the league’s most skilled players and it ends games in a quick, exciting manner and it doesn’t feel gimmicky like the shootout does. So why doesn’t the NHL give more of it?

Obviously, going to a no-clock format is a little bit too radical but what about going to two five minute periods. The first one can be played with each time having a short change and if neither team scores, then they can take a quick commercial time out and in the second overtime, each team can have the long change which would increase the likelihood of a goal being scored.

Fewer shootouts and more exciting three-on-three overtime. Everybody wins.

RELAXED JERSEY RULES

This change is definitely the most minor of my three suggestions, but as a self-proclaimed jersey nerd, I would like nothing more than to see the NHL get more creative with their uniform policy.

To start, I would like to see home teams wear their white jerseys on a much more regular basis. With modern communication, how easy would it be for a team to reach out to the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks and say “hey, we’re going to bring our ‘dark’ jerseys on our upcoming road trip. Cool?” and then all three teams could say “yeah, what a great idea”.

On top of that, why not have games where both teams can wear their ‘dark jerseys’. The Oilers in their orange jerseys could go up against the Golden Knights in their grey jerseys or any team in their black jerseys. The Oilers rocking their retro blue jerseys could play Calgary in their retro red jerseys. It’s a minor detail, but as a diehard hockey fan, I’d like to see the NHL get more creative with their jerseys.

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Those are my three ideas. Agree? Disagree? Have three different ideas? Let me know!


  • Derzie

    – Exempted contract? Yes please. Good idea as long as the loopholes get closed up front.
    – More 3v3? Yup. No points for losing. No ties. No shootout. 2 pts up for grabs. One team gets them.
    – Jerseys? I’m good with any changes there except ads.
    – Call the rulebook. Must have. Enough of the strong bad players impacting the weaker skilled players.
    – No cap circumvention through injuries. If a player misses more than a year, his cap can’t be buried in LTIR. Look at Dubas picking up Clarkson. Hossa with his itchy elbow pads. A complete mockery of the system. You get a year to sort it out, then the cap hit comes back until they retire. GMs will think hard about signing that next sunset contract.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “Personally, I love three-on-three overtime.”

    Really? Okay, why stop there? Why not three on three for the third period? Why not no icing? Why not have an extra net in the middle of the rink? Why not have one period of actual hockey then shootouts for the other two? Why not one on one?

    You have to stop somewhere. Hockey has existed for more than a century as a five on five sport. There’s a reason there’s no five on five in the playoffs, because it’s ridiculous, and when the games matter you can’t have the outcome decided by such money-grabbing foolishness. What you don’t understand is that the second we reduced hockey to four on four the shootout was inevitable. You say you don’t like the shootout but you want more three on three? That it doesn’t feel gimmicky but the shoot out does? How are you reaching this conclusion?

    “Obviously, going to a no-clock format is a little bit too radical…” Why? By what meter-stick are you measuring this that results in no clock being too radical but three on three is not too radical? That the shootout is bad but the three on three is good? You want three on three in the playoffs, too?

    That’s a pile of contradictions and it seems like you have no idea what you’re talking about. You know what you should do, you should go to the soccer crowd and tell them they need to shrink the field by 75 per cent and eliminate one of the nets and three quarters of the players. I mean, let’s make it exciting. Enough with this endurance and strategy and centuries of tradition. Let’s mix it UP. Oh and basketball? Forget the games. Let’s have each game replaced by a slam-dunk contest. I mean, that’s what’s exciting, right?

    I get that this post was a bit harsh, but with all due respect, dude, you need to think this stuff through. The quest to make things better is what destroys what was already good enough.

  • Derkus the circus

    Totally in favour of getting rid of the shootout. It was a bettman gimmick to sell tickets in american markets to start with. Which is exactly why they wont take it out. I like the jersey idea. No reason teams cant wear whites at home more than they do.

  • Fireball

    My fear of switching the Draft Age to 19 is we will push more players to other leagues which is exactly how the WHA landed Wayne Gretzky and the Howe boys. The Draft age for that league was less than the NHL. Good young players that were chomping at the puck to play pro went that route for that reason.. there’s no longer a WHA but there’s the KHL which has already pushed some teams away from Drafting Russians that used to. There’s no garentee that they will come and play now. Anyone on the ledge to come here now you’d surely be pushing them in the wrong direction. You might very well see less of them coming here to play junior as well. What would a Connor McDavid do if he could go get 2-3 mill to play for SKA at 18 ? or play junior for nothing ? We would be guessing to say either way but we’d be opening the door to guys going there and signing for 3 years. The idea and reasoning behind drafting at 19 is great but it very well could back fire. History would lead me to believe it would do exactly that.

    • Fireball

      I respectfully disagree about 3 on 3 and I have always hated the loser point. One of the points people made about the shootout was that it wasn’t a team game. Well 3 on 3 is not a team game and was designed to make it easier to score so it wouldn’t go to a shootout as often. I say it’s not a team game and Edmonton is a prime example of that. 3 guys on the oilers eat 70% to 80% of that time.. it’s a 23 man roster. The other guys only go on to rest McD And Leon / who ever the other guy is this year. It’s usually the same 3 guys that play the other 20-30% of it.. if they get that much time. There’s a dozen guys on the oilers roster who have never graced the ice during even strength 3 on 3. It’s exciting to watch .. but as far as I’m concerned they might as well put their sneakers on and go up the concourse or parking lot to decide it. Pond Hockey 101. As for the loser point.. it sickens me to think that 2 teams that aren’t good enough to beat the other in regulation time get rewarded for it.. if it must be that way then there should be a extra point for regulation win ! 3 for reg. 2 for OT/SO win 1 for OT/SO loss. Some Teams are strategically playing the end of the third to tryin get it to OT to insure they get a point. In a lot of cases both teams are. I’ve seen it many times ! 2 teams play keep away for the last 2-3 mins of the game. Not always but it happens and if you are rewarding the loser In OT you surely should reward the teams who cleanly win. PS I would like more hockey not less.. I’m there.., I’ve paid .. I really don’t care if it’s to long for people who aren’t really fans .. I also don’t care if the players don’t get paid OT 😂 I like the shootout at least I don’t dislike it.. every single game I’ve ever been at that went to shootout ( which is many ) I look at my partner and say we’re getting our moneys worth tonight ! And we say yup ! Because it’s true.. the one very good thing that’s came out of the shootout is we used to send national teams overseas and no one knew who was good at the shootout.. we lost medals because of it. It is what the rest of the world had been doing for a very long time.. now we know how to do it too.

      • Fireball

        I like the one exempt contract. There should be a reward for us who pay double for our booze food and seats than fans who don’t.. ( I’ve been south, ive looked at playoff seats.. the fact I could still get row 4 seats in SJ the day before the game for 90$ Each while my row four seats were almost $400 w/ conversion to USD and would have to pay 6-7-800$ to get them from the resale market if I wanted them the day before the game deserves reward ) a exempt contract would give have teams a advantage. IE: we could pay McD 15 mill and have it be exempt. Have not Teams wouldn’t be able to do that.,

        • Fireball

          My change I would like to see is : No Tax advantage ! Salary Cap should be based upon Clear Money ! I’ve heard people say that it doesn’t really give you a advantage.. I’m a Tax payer in Canada. I make good money. I pay almost 48% tax on everything I make in the second half of the year., I average over 43% on everything. The players making millions are paying almost 1/2 their earnings in tax. Federal tax in the states is less than here to start with.. ( I work for American based company ) certain states have Zero State tax. We have almost 15% provincial tax in Alberta for high earners.. so forget any federal break .. A player making 5 mill in Florida is making 15% more than a player in Alberta just based upon that. That’s not including the lesser fed tax. 15% is a lot of money., when you get up into 9-10-11-12 mill contracts it’s Massive. Include the federal difference and it’s more. You basically have teams in the south who have 15-25% more buying power. Let’s even the playing feild. It would be a complex system. But far from impossible.

      • Fireball

        As you can tell I want more Hockey.. it’s 11pm July 31st and I’m responding to Hockey Articles because I’m dying for more Hockey !! If the game takes longer I love it ! They could play 5 on 5 sudden death for days.. it’s like a bonus 😂 I’d be happy 😊

        • Fireball

          For the record I was happy with the Tie. They gave us more Hockey when they brought in the shootout. Now I’m hooked on more Hockey. The shootout was brought in to get rid of ties. Plus everyone else was doing it.

          • Fireball

            PS someone will likely point out I said level the field but say have teams should have a advantage.. the cap should be the cap even across the board. Under the current system it is not.

    • Jason Gregor

      Push to what leagues? Playing in CAN/US is much different than going to Russia. They aren’t playing there now at 19. They go back to CHL. Also last season Russia had most players drafted in over a decade. In 2009 they had 8, last year they had 26. The KHL doesn’t have the financial power it used to and is much less of a threat for players to go play there. Only reason Matthews went oversees was he was finished the U18 program and hadn’t committed to any other team. And the article clearly stated that special players like McDavid, would be taken care of. Allow 18 year olds to be picked in the top-five picks of the first round. On average only two play (I don’t count those who play 3-9 games and go back to junior) regularly in NHL at 18, so having five spots would be ample room.

      • dsanchez1973

        I feel like this would be better resolved by allowing players to play in the AHL as soon as they’re drafted. No more Bouchards wasting a year dominating the OHL for the second time.

  • Generic Oiler Fan

    1) Raise the cap floor so teams like Ottawa don’t just keep spending the minimum. Make the minimum to maximum a difference of 10-12M so teams are inclined to try more and players get paid.

    2) Something like Bird rights or a clause for a player that the team has drafted or has had for at least four years and they can go over the cap to sign said player. This rewards good drafting and good players.

    3) Old playoff format 1v8, 2v7, etc..

    4) Add a couple more Canadian teams. Quebec should be top of that list, and maybe one in Saskatchewan.

  • YFC Prez

    There is one thing I would like to change but I have no idea how to go about changing it. These guaranteed contracts to players who are not even coming close to living up to the level of play that got them signed.

    Perhaps changing the way buyouts affect the cap. Or certain sets of circumstances that allow a contract to be terminated.

    Right now there are so many overpaid players in the league who just don’t produce according to their pay scale. Their inflated salaries eat up cap room making it hard for gms to build rosters and take opportunity away from other players who could possibly fill their role better.

    As I said I don’t know how to go about doing this without messing up the cap. But in every other business when you sign a contract you have to keep up your end of the deal. A lot of players just are not doing so. Perhaps contracts come with a clear outline of what is expected and if those expectations are not met it can be terminated.

    There are multiple 4th line/bottom pairing defenceman all across the league right now that are making north of 5 million dollars. That on its own is messing up the salary cap system. Not to mention the dead cap space that comes when gms buy out these underperforming players.

    • jesse says yep

      IT would be easy to fix but would probably take another lockout to implement. Get rid of guaranteed contracts for players signing UFA contracts. RFA and contracts that include RFA years would be exempt and be guaranteed. And limit the UFA contracts to 4 years or less unless you drafted that player or resigning them.

  • goodtobelucky97

    The 3vs3 OT is fun to watch.
    Scrap the loser point and shootout. The loser point feels like a participation ribbon. You lost but came really close to winning so let’s give you a point……what???
    Also, if the rule is 3vs3 OT in the regular season it should be the same in the playoffs……just seems so bush league to have a rule change because it’s the playoffs.
    If you believe in 5vs5 OT for the playoffs, then it should 5vs5 OT in the regular season……these guys are grown men, I’m sure their parents will let them stay out late due to the game running late.

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      I agree with getting rid of the loser point. I think there should be 2 points for a regulation win, 1 point for an OT win, and no points for the loser. If you want to really see teams push for a regulation win, make it 3-1-0. Regulation wins would mean SO much more!

      I think the only time OT would really be desired would be in the playoffs, where it adds excitement.

      I also don’t care for the 3-on-3 format. I agree it showcases the players with speed and skill but there are other formats for that. IMO it just seems amateurish and not really like hockey.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Get rid of No-Trade and No-Movement clauses. I get that the players had to get something substantial back when the salary cap was enacted after the 2004-05 lockout, but NTCs and NMCs are hand-cuffing a lot of teams from being able to move contracts. Worse, they’re creating two classes of teams – ones with cities that players want to play in; ones where they don’t.

    I’ll give you a hint as to which list Edmonton – and all or most of the other Canadian cities – is on. I know the Oilers organization has created most of its own problems over the past 10 years or so, but I bet it also hasn’t been easy making trades to improve your team when players have put your organization on a list of teams they won’t be traded to for reasons that have nothing to do with the organization (i.e. location, weather, travel, taxes, perceived quality of life, etc.).

    NTCs and NMCs represent an unprecedented amount of “in-season” veto power for players. Previously, players only held the hammer in the off-season, through free agency rights, or by refusing to report to camp and demanding a trade (see Messier, Mark, fall 1991). Now? Trades require their approval, mid-season and off-season (with some exceptions, I suppose). That’s never happened before. It’s gotta stop.

  • Synthesis

    I would like revenue distribution revisited. When a broke team like Florida who are for all intents and purposes inept at marketing their product use that money on high profile coaches and free agents it bothers me.
    First of all, were it not for equalization they would not consider these “luxury” items as fundamentally, they cant afford them. So I get the need for parity but the equalization payments skews the welfare system in such a way that bottom feeder teams are competing for UFA’s and such with money that they did not earn, beyond just existing in markets that should not have hockey teams.
    Arguably, the darwinian effect of survival of the fittest has been compromised and the league would be far better off putting a bullet in the head of these garbage franchises that show no signs of economic viability. In fact, just doing away with them altogether would not hurt the leagues revenue stream and distributing whatever they have for talent through the remaining teams (potentially) strengthens the NHL’s overall product.
    In short, the leagues welfare system has its purpose (currency mitigation, etc.) but overall I think it masks the fact that bad franchises are a drain on the league overall. In a fully accountable (non equalized) system teams either get their crap together or they vanish, just like REAL businesses.