Salary Cap Robbery?

Late the other night word began to trickle out about two Islanders forwards opting to forgo signing their qualifying offers from the club. At first, the only player listed was defenseman Jack Hillen, but after a few hours we learned through Chris Botta that forward Blake Comeau has also been added to that list. The GOOD news is that even though these players are holding out, they are still restricted free agents and cannot be poached at will. That said, the dreaded offer sheet can be tendered by rival clubs, but the compensation those clubs would have to give in return could be worth it in the end.

Let’s step back and analyize what is traspiring here.

Each player is represented by an agent, this is rather obvious to anyone following professional sports of any type. From what we can tell based on reports, both players want to play for the Islanders, either their agents or the players themselves feel as if their value has not been met. This is going to be a BOLD statement, but this bloggers opinion is that the agents involved are holding the Islanders and their low salary cap hostage. The Islanders have a league low salary cap, which means they have the most room. NHLSCAP shows the Islanders to have over $21 million in cap space as of this post. Naturally, these player agents are going to react to contracts handed out around the league due to fair market value, but with teams handing out lucrative deals without much regard for the salary cap – what we are seeing is all too common of a trend. I’m not going to devalue either Hillen or Comeau, but they both still have a lot to prove at the NHL level.

Last night Botta had an interesting look into the decisions behind players not accepting their qualifying offers from each players actual agent. It’s a good read, but it still doesn’t change my opinion of the equivalent of salary cap robbery. Again, a bold serious statement – but it’s just what I feel is going on.

In another example of this practice, several Islanders prospects have yet to sign their rookie deals. Chris Botta (once again) points out a few details on forward Matt Martin who was drafted in 2008. Apparently, because Martin was drafted later (5th round) and has blossomed into a formidable player, his agent is seeking a higher payday for his player. What the Islanders have offered remains to be seen, but why the sudden dispute over a contract? Granted this situation differs from the current one involving Comeau and Hillen, but it just makes you scratch your head.

I understand this is a business, I understand that players make their living playing a sport – I just don’t understand the overvaluing of players by their agents. It reeks of greed and comes off as arrogant and unappreciative.

In the end, while the Islanders DO have plenty of cap space I don’t feel that it is fair for an agent to target the biggest payday possible for players who have yet to completely prove themselves. Garth Snow has done a superb job of managing his assets, he has lined himself up perfectly for acquiring a player through trade or free agency on the coming years should he keep it up. Stay the course Garth, stick to your plan and give out FAIR contracts – no reason to overpay – much.

Michael Schuerlein

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