Esks could swing vote on salary cap

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:53 PM ET

In the middle of winter - when the media spotlight is almost exclusively on the hockey world - the CFL is about to make some major noise.

When the league's governors meet next week in Arizona, commissioner Tom Wright is hoping a salary management system will be approved for the 2006 season.

Although very few details in the salary system proposal are being publicly discussed, rumours suggest a $3.8-million salary cap for each team is the key component. The issue will be the hot topic of the meetings and Wright believes it will go to a vote.

Six of nine teams will need to vote in favour of the cap for it to pass - and that is where the politics become really interesting.

There seems to be a solid group of at least five teams supporting the idea.

However, according to widespread speculation, B.C. Lions' owner David Braley and outspoken Montreal Alouettes' moneyman Bob Wetenhall are opposed to a cap.

If those teams vote in that fashion, the Edmonton Eskimos could hold a pivotal swing vote - determining the fate of the salary system.

With millions upon millions in the bank and the highest paid player in the loop - QB Ricky Ray at more than $400,000 per year - some suggest the Eskimos want nothing to do with a team salary limit. However, chief operating officer Rick LeLacheur was part of the six-member committee that formed the cap proposal with the commissioner.

"I think the work by the salary management team has been thorough," said Wright. "It has been responsible and fair in taking a look at the needs of all of our member clubs."

LeLacheur and the committee also received input from outside the CFL.

"We had some resources that did a lot of due diligence in looking at other leagues to develop some ideas on best practices from the NFL, the NBA, the MLB and NHL," continued Wright.

But LeLacheur isn't revealing which way the Eskimos are leaning.

"We will have to see what goes on at the meeting and what the discussion is," he remarked.

"There might be somebody that wasn't on the committee that thinks of something; a recommendation could be amended or changed.

"We will see what happens and then make the best decision that we think is fit for the Eskimos and the CFL."

There is no doubting where Wright stands on the most contentious issue in the league.

"I think (approving the cap) is important because, ultimately, it comes down to the notion of trying to ensure that we have strong, competitive balance across the league," he said from the CFL's head office in Toronto.

"It is something that is the hallmark of every league across the continent."

But Wright won't make a prediction on how the board meetings will unfold in Scottsdale, Arizona. "I am not a speculator in that regard," he said.


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