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Pass or Fail: Letting players choose free agency if they’re not ‘made whole’

Christian Ehrhoff says: I do not care for this idea.

The NHL and NHLPA reached another of their fabulous impasses this week, agreeing to the idea of a 50/50 division of hockey-related revenue, then differing on the execution.

The NHL wanted it to begin immediately, and while their proposal promised no rollback "over time", according to Bill Daly -- the players would be made whole eventually -- it expected players to defer money now. The players weren't so into that, countering with a proposal to let their contracts to remain as written and see the two sides reach 50/50 gradually over a number of years.

And thus, we lost the month of November.

But here's a novel idea from Tom M. Tango, author of "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball". Give teams the option of making their player contracts whole individually. Then, if they choose not to, give the players the option to either accept the reduction or test the new unrestricted free agent market. From Inside The Book:

The old CBA calls for players to earn 54% to 57%, escalating based on revenues generated. Should therefore that remain the standard going forward, with respect to Ovechkin's contract? If the players agree to 50% going forward, do they really have a moral stand to suggest that contracts signed under the old CBA need to be respected under the new CBA?

It's important to note that even under the old CBA, these "dollar" contracts were really "monopoly dollars". If these monopoly dollars totalled more than 57% of the revenues the league collected, the players would not be "made whole".

So, why would the players necessarily be made whole under a new CBA where the players get 50%? Just because they signed a contract that went years beyond the previous CBA?

At the same time, if the teams don't honor those contracts outside the original CBA years, then those contracts should therefore be declared null and void. That is, the teams have a choice: "make whole" on the contracts (out of their own pockets, not the players), or release the players from their contract altogether. The player has the option to either accept being released from their contract, or accept that they won't be made whole.

A few thoughts: first, Tango should have saved this idea for his next book, because then he could have called it "Tango on Cash". Opportunity squandered, pal.

Second, this could create chaos. Beautiful, beautiful chaos. As Jesse Spector noted, "I don't think TSN has enough employees for that show."

Third, I don't think the players would go for it.

Sure, there are a handful of superstars that might be comfortable hitting the open market and testing their luck. Alex Ovechkin would almost certainly get the new maximum salary on the open market. There might also be a small selection of players that might relish the opportunity to skip town. Would Shea Weber exit Nashville, knowing he too would get a maximum salary?

But the majority of players would be left with just two options: accept the cut or test an open market that isn't nearly as free-wheeling as it once was. Why would someone like Christian Ehrhoff be comfortable with this option when he knows full well his two choices are to lose some or lose a lot? The same can be said for Ville Leino, Scott Gomez, and several other NHLers that cashed in during a batcrap insane seller's market and have no interest in starting over, especially after their value has gone down and the market has been suppressed by a new CBA.

Even the aforementioned Weber would have to weigh escaping Smashville against walking away from a contract that will still pays him the gross domestic product of a small country for what is certain to be a lesser deal.

Furthermore, do the players really trust the owners not to collude in order to further suppress the market? We know they already suspect this has gone on in regards to offer sheets. This experiment requires a level of trust that I don't think they have.

In the end, the players are fighting to defend contracts to which they've already been signed and, as novel as this idea is, it effectively means giving up that fight. Sure, it gives them options, but since both options mean most will relinquish revenue, I can't see them going for it.

Mind you, that's just me, and Lord knows my English degree doesn't cover economics. Why can't this lockout call for more insight into the Harlem Renaissance or eighteenth century British romanticism? I hate you, lockout.

Nutty as this idea is, it's a marvelous conversation starter, so I'll put it to you guys.

Pass or fail: Letting players choose free agency if they're not made whole.

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