Today, the NHL punishes teams for drafting and developing talent, and that should embarrass them. To solve this issue, the NHL should introduce a similar salary cap structure and compensation for drafting and developing players, similar to the NBA. With the Luxury Taxes and Bird Rights, it would create a situation where teams would be rewarded for drafting players and have the capacity to keep them.
First looking at the Luxury Tax, it creates a bubble for teams to spend over the set salary cap. If a rich team like the New York Rangers chose to spend 5 million USD over the set salary cap, they would have to pay a tax on that 5 million USD. That tax New York paid would be spread around the league to give poorer teams more money to spend on their payroll. This allows rich teams to have the option to spend more money and keep their players. Also, it helps poor teams keep their talent through the distribution of the Luxury Taxes.
The point is, the hard salary cap suffocates teams into trading or releasing their drafted talent to underserving teams, because they do not have the salary cap space to sign everyone. With a Luxury Tax, teams could spend over the salary cap to keep their talent, while also helping poorer teams pay their players. Everyone should be able to keep their acquired talent, which teams can not do under the current salary structure.
With the ability to spend over the salary cap, teams may look to overpay players in free agency. To discourage the inflation of a free agent's value and encourage drafting and developing players in a Luxury Tax system, there needs to be rules similar to Bird Rights. In the NBA, if you draft/sign a player and keep them on your team for 3 years, you obtain their Bird Rights. The first component to Bird Rights is the opportunity to sign the player to an extra year, that other teams can not offer in free agency. Secondly, teams are able to exceed the salary cap to sign players with Bird Rights, without paying any Luxury Taxes. The rules for spending over the salary cap are very convoluted, but teams are able to execute this if they have developed and kept their talent.
There have been steps taken to move closer to Bird Rights rewards in the NHL. If players re-signs with their team, they can receive an extra eighth year that other teams can not offer them in free agency. This is a good step, but the real change needs to come in long term financial relief. The few years that a player receives less than market value is not enough to help teams keep their talent under the salary cap. The NHL needs to introduce ongoing financial exceptions for drafted and developed players to prevent teams from losing talent because they do not have salary cap space to sign them.
The fairytale of the Vegas Golden Knights was made possible by the excessive parity in the NHL. The main focus of the NHL's salary structure is to keep every team's max payroll the same, allowing everyone to have a fair chance to win the Stanley Cup. This has made everyone equally competitive, which has lead to teams having their talent taken from them and given to undeserving teams because if a team has too many skilled players, they will not be able to afford them. I believe that this equality is not fair, and there needs to be change. Through the flexibility of a soft cap with a Luxury Tax, teams would have to option to keep their talent by spending over the salary cap, while also supporting teams that may not have the same money through the distribution of the Luxury Taxes. Additionally, with perks similar to Bird Rights, teams could keep their talent they have worked to develop through salary cap exemptions. The best teams should have the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup, that is what I consider fair. An expansion Vegas team, designed to be everyone's rejects, was only able to make the Stanley Cup final in their first year because of the unfair equality created by the NHL, and the league should make sure that never happens again.
- The Scout