NHL Lockout: Should Contract Rollbacks Be Legal?

Riley Kufta@@RileyKuftaContributor IIIOctober 19, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Today has been a dark day in the NHL world, as Gary Bettman and the NHL outright rejected the NHLPA's proposal yesterday and followed up to cancel NHL games through to Nov. 1. 

The PA reportedly put forth three separate proposals yesterday afternoon. All three proposals had players share of hockey related revenues gradually declining from 57 percent to 50 (although the NHL claims it never reaches 50). 

The three proposals were in response to the NHL's offer for a 50/50 revenue split made on Tuesday. The proposal, although it claims to have mechanisms to honor the players' contracts in full, includes first-year rollbacks of approximately 10 percent. 

The facts are simple. 18 teams lost money last season. Something needs to be done to make the NHL more operational. The owners do deserve a larger share of the pot, but should rollbacks on current contracts even be permitted? 

The fact that we are a midst a lockout because the owners are demanding immediate rollbacks is astonishing. It is unethical, unfair and quite frankly should be illegal. 

Think back to this past summer. Thomas Cigarran, the owner of the Nashville Predators, to the surprise of many, gave General Manager David Poile the green light to match the 14 year, $110 million offer sheet Shea Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Now, this is an enormous contract for a team which is struggling financially. Many would even say they cannot afford it. But consider that before that contract was signed and Poile was given the green light, the owner was in contact with Gary Bettman. 

He knew that although the contract would be signed, the Predators would not actually pay out that $110 million. In fact, the Predators are essentially refusing to pay Weber any of that salary until he agrees to have it reduced. 

Of course, Shea Weber is a special case as he's receiving enormous bonuses this season. But what about the other players who signed contracts this summer? I can't imagine there's anyone who could see this and think it's fair or ethical on the part of the owners.

The question stands, should it be legal? Or should a third party be able to set guidelines as to what can and cannot be demanded by either side?

If the players do concede and accept rollbacks, how will they protect themselves from this in the future?

I predict that after this dispute, players will start requesting contracts that expire the summer before the CBA does and turn down all offers until a new agreement is in place. After all, what's the point of signing a contract that you know won't be honored?