Spending stupidity on tap

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

Happy Canada Day.

Fire up the barbecue.

Pour yourself a frosty one.

Celebrate.

Well, celebrate everything but Canada's game.

Sadly, as much as today is one to observe the birth of our great nation -- it still is a great nation (end of political statement) -- it's one that will cause you to shake your head.

Thanks to some of the lunkheads holding the fate of the National Hockey League in their hands, once again July 1 will set off some fiscal stupidity.

Check that, continue the fiscal stupidity.

Midway through the season, one NHL general manager was chit chatting with assembled media and called the new CBA a "one-year wonder."

What's that? The ton-weighing document that came out of the ashes of the lockout destroyed season won't work? How could it be? What could go wrong?

Turns out the answer is the same perils that crippled the NHL only a couple of years ago: The foolish handing out of money without a lack of foresight.

Today we could see Ed Jovanovski handed a Flintstone cheque to ply his services outside of Vancouver, likely in Florida.

The same thing goes for soon-to-be ex-Ottawa Senator Zdeno Chara.

Then, we have the like of Dallas Stars centre Jason Arnott, Marc Savard of the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey's Patrik Elias.

And those are just the players who've become unrestricted free agents.

Even scarier are the ridiculous contracts already given players on the verge of becoming unrestricted free agents.

This spring has been about locking up those players a year away from becoming UFAs. It's been about long-term deals with dollar figures that don't jive.

Take, for instance Roberto Luongo's four-year, $27 million US heist from the Canucks. At least Nikolai Khabibulin won a Stanley Cup before getting that kind of scratch from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Luongo's won ... oh yeah, nothing. Never been to the playoffs. Never even came close to the playoffs.

Yet, he owns the richest contract among goaltenders. More than Martin Brodeur and way more than the $3.33 million Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff will receive in the coming season -- year two of a three-year, $10-million pact.

And Luongo's deal is only one of them. Look at Bryan McCabe's five-year deal at $5.75 million per season with Toronto and the five-year deal Justin Williams signed with Carolina at $3.5 million per year.

And even the contract Phoenix gave Nick Boynton, reportedly three years at $2.95 million per season.

There will be more, and worse, very soon.

Thanks to the monster contract Tampa gave Brad Richards -- five years worth $39 million -- suddenly Marian Gaborik's representatives are counting on a similar deal, and that is without the Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup Richards won.

Expect to see Ottawa's Martin Havlat looking for big coin, too, being one year away from UFA status -- the reason he's looking for a one-year deal and on the trade market.

All these will come into play for Flames fans, too, with the newly acquired Alex Tanguay 365 days away from unrestricted free agency.

On the surface, it sounds like smart thinking. Clubs are locking up key players to lucrative deals.

However, and here's the other shoe, who's to prove revenues are going to grow for the next wave of players.

This past season's NHL revenue pool was a little more than $2.1 billion, pretty much the same as the pre-lockout 2003-04 season.

Because the league budgeted its salary cap for the 2005-06 season on a $1.8 billion pool, the cap was $39 million per team. Next year, that number goes to $44 million.

Yet, we're seeing teams spending as if the cap will go up again by $5 million for 2007-08. No way is the NHL going to bring in another $300 million in revenue.

Yet, you have teams acting like drunken sailors, spending this year without considering the impact down the road.

Thankfully, the CBA allows only 54% of the revenue to go to the players -- 55% if it cracks $2.2 billion but doesn't reach $2.4 billion.

Which means at least they legislated away total stupidity.

Sadly, it can't get rid of all stupidity.


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