Yesterday, Jason Gregor wrote a great piece on the idea of the NHL changing the draft age to 19. I really like that idea and it’s one of those topics that gets brought up almost every offseason. I honestly believe it’s only a matter of time until the league decides to make that change.
While reading Gregor’s piece, I began thinking about other changes I would like to see the NHL make. I have plenty, but there are three that I would love to see. One is a major change to the salary cap system, one is a tweak to the one ice product, and one is a very small change to the look of the league.
Here are three things I would change about the NHL.
THE EXEMPTED CONTRACT
I like the salary cap system in the NHL because it brings an element of parity that doesn’t really exist in either of the other four major North American sports leagues. It makes the NHL unique in the sense that any organization, in any market, can build a contender no matter what their budget is. Vegas in 2017-18 and Carolina this past season are prime examples.
While I love the element of parity, what I don’t like is how the salary cap suppresses the ability for superstar players to make what they’re worth and while I like that every organization is on an even playing field, I wouldn’t mind seeing rich and well-run organizations get a little bit of an advantage.
I’m not sure if I’m the biggest fan of the luxury tax system, but if it’s done properly I think it can work really well. At the same time, I can’t see the NHL making a change that radical. What I would like to see is simple: the highest-paid salary for any NHL team is exempt from the salary cap.
There are plenty of benefits to this and honestly, I can’t think of a lot of downfalls.
Star players could earn what they deserve, instead of feeling pressured to take less for the sake of the team. Teams would have an easier time building around those star players which would mean that it’s we might see the leagues star players playing in meaningful hockey games on a more regular basis.
I enjoy lots of player movement in the summer and this would increase that since the league’s top-end teams would have more cap space but at the same time, teams that spend their money in reckless ways would be punished just as much as they are now. If you go and blow $15 million on veteran free agents, those contracts wouldn’t go away just because you have an exempted contract.
The only rule I would add is that a player could only be your exempted contract is he’s been on your roster for three seasons. That would mean teams have added incentive to keep their own free agents or players coming off RFA contracts. In a situation like John Tavares going to the Leafs, they could have signed him to a seven-year deal but he would have had to count against their cap until year four of the deal. At least that’s how it would work in my fantasy world.
I believe this is a way for the league to reward good organizations and their superstar players while also keeping the level of parity and unpredictability that makes the NHL unique.
MORE 3v3 OT
The shootout was fun for one season, maybe two. After that, I didn’t like it, but it was better than a game ending in a tie. Now, after the introduction of three-on-three overtime, I would be okay if I never saw another shootout again.
I also understand that there are some hockey traditionalists that don’t enjoy the three-on-three overtime format simply because it doesn’t feel like hockey. My counter-argument to them would be: it’s better than the shootout.
Personally, I love three-on-three overtime. It showcases the league’s most skilled players and it ends games in a quick, exciting manner and it doesn’t feel gimmicky like the shootout does. So why doesn’t the NHL give more of it?
Obviously, going to a no-clock format is a little bit too radical but what about going to two five minute periods. The first one can be played with each time having a short change and if neither team scores, then they can take a quick commercial time out and in the second overtime, each team can have the long change which would increase the likelihood of a goal being scored.
Fewer shootouts and more exciting three-on-three overtime. Everybody wins.
RELAXED JERSEY RULES
This change is definitely the most minor of my three suggestions, but as a self-proclaimed jersey nerd, I would like nothing more than to see the NHL get more creative with their uniform policy.
To start, I would like to see home teams wear their white jerseys on a much more regular basis. With modern communication, how easy would it be for a team to reach out to the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks and say “hey, we’re going to bring our ‘dark’ jerseys on our upcoming road trip. Cool?” and then all three teams could say “yeah, what a great idea”.
On top of that, why not have games where both teams can wear their ‘dark jerseys’. The Oilers in their orange jerseys could go up against the Golden Knights in their grey jerseys or any team in their black jerseys. The Oilers rocking their retro blue jerseys could play Calgary in their retro red jerseys. It’s a minor detail, but as a diehard hockey fan, I’d like to see the NHL get more creative with their jerseys.
Those are my three ideas. Agree? Disagree? Have three different ideas? Let me know!