Thursday, August 11, 2005

RFA's Are Fair Game

I belong to a Ranger message board and I hear people saying that Glen Sather should not go after a RFA like Heatley or Kovalchuk, not because it's bad for the rebuilding, but because other teams will get mad. They reference the 1997 incident when the Rangers offered Joe Sakic $21 million over three years (with $17 million in the first year) and the rest of the league got outraged. I have two things to say to that: a) It's a different environment now and b) So what?

Under the previous CBA, teams like the Rangers could overspend, and it hurt the league in the long run. But it was completely fair under the CBA for the Rangers to offer Sakic that contract. If the Avs did not match that offer, they would have been heavily compensated. Teams and fans were mad at the Rangers, but when you have the opportunity to land a player who is going to the Hall of Fame, you do it. There was no reason for other teams to get mad; the Rangers played by the rules. I never liked all the spending the Rangers did, but you can't disagree with trying to get a Joe Sakic on their team.

Now, we are in a completely different environment with this new CBA. Teams cannot offer huge RFA deals because there is a salary cap. If they spend too much on a player, it will decrease their chances of winning. It levels out the playing field. RFA's are fair game. Everyone has the same salary cap now and no team is going to overspend by that much.

Danny Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk are special players, impact players as I like to call them. Kovalchuk is 22 years old and had 87 points last year. I would do everything in my power to get him on my team. And the CBA has RFA compensation to protect against outright taking of every RFA in the league.

If a team offered either one of these players less than $5 million a season (so they would not have to give up four first round draft picks) the Thrashers would surely match it. If a team gave them (probably not Heatley, but Kovalchuk) $6+ million a season, and Atlanta could not match that figure, the team would give up FOUR first round picks. That is a lot of first rounders. What makes RFA signings fair is that teams cannot make more than one major RFA signing every half-decade. If a team went out and offered Kovalchuk $6 million and they lost four first rounders, they would be basically done from making any significant RFA signings until 2008.

Restricted free agents are fair game. There is a compensation schedule in place to make sure teams don't offer huge salaries to players that don't deserve them. And if they overspend, they are hurt significantly in the draft. They are also going to be out of the RFA market for the next few seasons. And RFA's are even more fair in a salary cap environment because everyone is on (basically) a level playing field. Even if a team tried to overspend on Kovalchuk, they could not offer him the world and still be in fine cap position.

So people need to stop saying that RFA signings are unfair and that other teams will get mad. It lacks a basic understanding of the CBA, business and what "fair" truly is.