A lockout is coming. There is no escape from it. There is no way of preventing it. The NHL and NHLPA are in a gridlock and there is no sign of it being relieved anytime soon. Many fans in Winnipeg are distressed by this. And who can blame them.
The capital of Manitoba had only one year to celebrate the return of the NHL. Winnipeg waited 15 years for that moment. But now, Winnipeg will have to do without NHL hockey for an indefinite period. The question is, how this could affect the Winnipeg Jets.
First things first. When the lockout eventually ends, (and it will at some point) the fans will come back. There is still excitement about NHL hockey in Winnipeg. The MTS Centre is sold out for the next 5 years. No need to worry about tickets being sold in the short-term.
But what about the long-term. That depends on who wins the labour dispute. If Gary Bettman and the owners get what they want, the Jets might be set up in a good position. The NHL wants to get rid of the monstrous long-term deals that have plagued certain teams since 2005. The league wants contracts no longer than 5 years. Currently, only defenceman Tobias Enstrom has a contract longer than 5 years, as he signed a 6 year contract in the offseason. The NHL also wants to reduce the percentage of revenues the players take in, which currently sits at 57%. The latest proposal from the NHL has the players and owners virtually splitting all league revenues around the 50% mark both ways. This would help the bottom line for the Jets, and stabilize profits for True North Entertainment. With this reduction of league revenues to the players, the salary cap would be lowered to $58 million for the 2012-13 season. According to capgeek.com the Jets current cap hit stands at $51,418,958 which would be over $6 million below the cap ceiling. Once again, the Jets are in pretty good position. Granted the Jets still have to sign restricted free agent Evander Kane, who did lead the club with 30 goals in 2011-12. He is asking for a big raise, so this could be a dicey situation, once the lockout ends.
If Donald Fehr and the NHLPA wins the labour dispute, a few things could happen. First, don’t be surprised if certain teams fold. Franchises such as the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers are in deep trouble as it stands right now. If the rest of the owners cannot curb their wild spending habits, these teams could be gone sooner rather than later. Jobs would be lost, but more talent would be available to the Jets. The team could be improved on the ice by picking up some of the best players on these teams. But what about the revenues? Fehr has insisted he would work under the guidelines of a salary cap, to which the Jets are fine with this. However, if revenues continue to go up like the league is claiming, then the cap ceiling and floor will both go up, meaning profits are cut down. The Jets have to hope the Canadian economy remains solid, or the club could see some financial issues. As well if length of contracts remain the same, the Jets may be force to sign outrageous deals to keep players in Winnipeg. This could be very damaging to the club in the future.
Yes, the owners should not be going to the players to fix the mess they created. The owners are to blame for this work stoppage and they need to curtail their spending habits if the league wants to flourish. However, what the owners are demanding might be the only way the Jets are able to survive long-term in Winnipeg. This isn’t an easy time to be a hockey fan in Winnipeg.